BRASILIA — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Monday 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.
The Ichilov Medical Center 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 medical center 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.
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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.
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 -- despite Palestinian claims to parts of the city.
© Agence France-Presse