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Repeated emergence of highly contagious and potentially immune-evading variant SARS-CoV-2 is posing global health and socioeconomical threats. For suppression of the spread of the virus infection among people, a procedure to inactivate virus in saliva may be useful, because saliva of infected persons is the major origin of droplets and aerosols that mediate viral transmission to nearby persons. We previously reported that SARS-CoV-2 is rapidly and remarkably inactivated by treatment in vitro with tea including green tea, roasted green tea, oolong tea and black tea. Tea catechin-derived compounds including theaflavins (TFs) with (a) galloyl moiety(ies) showed this activity. Although black tea is popularly consumed worldwide, a lot of people consume it with sugar, milk, lemon juice, and so on. But it has not been determined whether these ingredients may influence the inactivation effect of black tea against SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, it has not been revealed whether black tea is capable of inactivating variant viruses such as delta variant. Here we examined the effect of black tea on some variants in the presence or absence of sugar, milk, and lemon juice in vitro. Black tea and galloylated TFs remarkably inactivated alpha, gamma, delta and kappa variants. Intriguingly, an addition of milk but not sugar and lemon juice totally prevented black tea from inactivating alpha and delta variant viruses. The suppressive effect was also exerted by milk casein. These results suggest the possibility that intake of black tea without milk by infected persons may result in inactivation of the virus in saliva and attenuation of spread of SARS-CoV-2 to nearby persons through droplets. Clinical studies are required to investigate this possibility.

Competing Interest Statement

This study was partially funded by ITO EN, ltd, Tokyo, Japan. The company also provided tea samples, sample preparations, and discussion with authors. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv

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