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Brazil’s Bolsonaro seeks emergency use of Israeli anti-COVID nasal spray

Brazilian president touts drug that Netanyahu has called a ‘miracle’ treatment, days after the 2 leaders spoke by phone

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on February 9, 2021. (Evaristo Sa/AFP)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on February 9, 2021. (Evaristo Sa/AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Monday that his government would seek emergency use authorization for an Israeli-developed nasal spray against COVID-19 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a “miracle” treatment.

“EXO-CD24 is a nasal spray developed by the Ichilov Medical Center in Israel, with nearly 100-percent effectiveness — 29 out of 30 — against COVID in serious cases,” Bolsonaro tweeted, two days after speaking on the phone with Netanyahu, who calls the Brazilian far-right leader a “good friend.”

“A request to analyze this medication for emergency use will be sent shortly to (federal health regulator) Anvisa,” Bolsonaro wrote.

Ichilov Hospital announced two weeks ago that one of its researchers had carried out Phase One testing — typically the first of three phases of clinical trials — on a nasal spray he developed against respiratory symptoms linked to COVID-19.

The researcher, Nadir Arber, reported he had administered the spray to 30 patients with moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, and that 29 of them had been released from hospital in three to five days.

But the hospital did not say whether a placebo had been given to a control group, and has yet to publish its findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

In order to be accepted as effective by scientists, new treatments must generally undergo randomized, controlled, blind clinical trials that are then shared in a research publication.

However, that did not stop Netanyahu from hailing EXO-CD24 as a “miracle” drug last week.

Bolsonaro, too, has been eager to embrace experimental treatments against COVID-19, even when health experts question them.

A fierce critic of lockdown measures, which he says unnecessarily harm the economy, he has instead fervently pushed the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak during a joint press conference at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, on March 31, 2019. (DEBBIE HILL/POOL/AFP)

He took the latter himself when he tested positive last July, despite scientists’ findings that the two drugs are ineffective against the new coronavirus.

Bolsonaro has sought to cultivate close ties with Netanyahu.

In one of his first moves after winning election in 2018, he vowed to follow the lead of his political role model, then US president Donald Trump, and move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The South American country opened a trade office in the Israeli capital in 2019, in a move hailed as a harbinger to opening an embassy in the city.

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