SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – When the coronavirus pandemic commenced in March 2020, it was nearly impossible to hunt down disinfectant wipes, as the entire world took to frantically wiping down every and all household surfaces. 

Initial studies of the virus showed it could live on certain surfaces for weeks, according to a University of Utah press release. However, by 2020, new data suggested that touching a contaminated surface was not the culprit of the surge of COVID-19 cases, but rather airborne nasal droplets. 

Jessica Kramer, the University of Utah biomedical engineering assistant professor, has since been published in the newest issue of ACS Central Science for her findings that proved the transmission of the coronavirus can be explained by our mucus. 

Kramer’s research indicates that human saliva or mucus, when dried on a surface, could actually prevent the virus. 

She disclosed that people produce different forms of mucins, mucus and salivary proteins, depending on their unique genetics, environment, and diet. Certain mucins form a barrier around the virus, preventing the spread of infection. 

Through experimentation, Kramer learned that the virus was able to spread rapidly and efficiently from surface to surface when mucins were not present. However, when mucins were made available through dried saliva and mucus, the rate of infection dropped significantly. 

Kramer affirms that this is because mucins are a special class of proteins that have sugars attached to them, which bind to the virus rather than attaching to the surface of a human cell to replicate. 

“This research explains how the mucins work, which we think is important,” Kramer says. “If we understand how they block the virus from infection, we can develop drugs that mimic that action.”