Science

Steam inhalation could reduce Covid-19 viral load: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on December 08, 2020

A study has found that steam inhalation could be an effective treatment for Covid-19 positive patients.

According to the researchers, the heat waves of the steam has also been seen to denature the proteins that lead to loss of infectivity of the SARS-CoV-2. The researchers have shown that heat can also denature the SARS-CoV-2 virion's proteins.

Temperatures of 56 °C for 15 and 30 minutes in liquid environments, respectively, were enough to breakdown SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, the researchers noted in their study published in the journal Life Sciences.

The researchers claimed that steam inhalation cycles can be considered to be useful in damaging the capsid of the SARS-CoV-2 envelope and prevent infection.

They further mentioned that the European Pharmacopoeia VI edition has recommended steam inhalations as a procedure to treat respiratory diseases as well.

Study design

For the study, the researchers examined 10 Covid-19 positive people and administered humidified steam through inhalation for at least 20 minutes (5 cycles of 4 minutes) within 1 hour for at least 4 consecutive days. Their airway mucosal membranes were exposed to the steam.

The temperature of the steam was maintained at 55 and 65°C in the first 4 to 5 minutes after the initiation of water boiling.

They measured the viral shedding every 24 hours. Three participants dropped out of the intervention-- one due to allergy, one started on hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin treatment since day 1, and one manifested more than three symptoms, which were moderate to severe.

The average age of the participants was 44.4 years.

Findings

Te study revealed that six patients with symptoms reported clinical improvement at the end of the intervention. Two patients showed persistent symptoms of loss of smell and taste. One patient complained of persisting muscle pain and nasal congestion. All seven patients tested negative after the first day of steam inhalation on four consecutive swab samples.

Furthermore, the researchers noted that all seven remained low viral shedders three to five days after following the protocol. Also, the allergic patient who had stopped the study on day five had shown a negative swab on inhalation on day one. They showed a weak positive three days later. An additional swab on day 10 showed negative.

Implications

Although the study was small, it shows the beneficial effects of steam inhalation in reducing viral shedding from infected patients.

The team wrote that this could be an "easily accessible, non-invasive and inexpensive procedure" which has been proven to be effective. It should be subjected to larger clinical trials.

They concluded that, "Should our preliminary observations be confirmed, the protocol could be used against Covid-19 or other viral infections using vapotherm masks, where temperature, time of exposure, and size of steam particles can be set and monitored."

Published on December 08, 2020

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