The UK has started a large-scale trial of a new treatment that is expected to protect COVID-19 patients from developing the disease severely.
Treatment involves breathing in a protein called interferon beta that the body makes when it gets a viral infection.
It is expected that boost the immune system, preparing cells to be ready to fight viruses.
Preliminary results of the treatment indicate that it reduces by almost 80% the chances that Covid-19 patients will develop the disease in a serious way, requiring respirators for example.
The drug was developed at Southampton University Hospital and is being produced by the biotech company Synairgen.
A treatment with the new drug could cost about $ 2,750, which is not considered excessive for one of these procedures in a hospital.
“To be viable, it has to be cost-effective,” said Richard Marsden, Synairgen CEO.
Alexandra Constantin, from 34 years, was the first person to receive the treatment as part of these new trials, after being admitted to the hospital with coronavirus on Monday.
In a demonstration of the treatment, the nurse handed her an inhaler that turns the medication into a fine mist, which Alexandra breathed as deep into her lungs as she could.
How does the treatment work?
Interferon beta is part of the body’s first line of defense against viruses, alerting you to prepare against a viral attack.
Apparently, the coronavirus suppresses the production of interferon beta as a strategy to evade the response of our immune system.
The new drug is a special formula of interferon beta that goes directly into the airways by means of an inhaler that turns the protein into an aerosol.
The idea is that a direct dose of the protein in the lungs will generate a stronger antiviral response, even in patients whose immune systems are weakened.
Interferon beta is commonly used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Previous clinical trials by Synairgen have shown that it can stimulate the immune response and that patients with asthma and other chronic lung conditions can tolerate the treatment comfortably.
Two smaller clinical trials of the treatment conducted last year had promising results.
The patients had two to three more likely to recover to the point where daily activities were not compromised by the disease, Synairgen said.
It also showed a “very significant” reduction in shortness of breath for patients who received the treatment, as well as a shorter hospital stay.
Before it is approved for use, there will be a “phase three” of trials involving more than 600 patients in 20 countries.
“Once we have a positive study, we will quickly embark on large-scale production and distribution of the drug for clinical practice,” said Professor Tom Wilkinson of the University of Southampton, who is overseeing the trial.
He added that he believes the new drug – to prove effective – will complement vaccines that are currently being distributed.
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Coronavirus: UK Starts Trials of New Treatment That Could Reduce Severe Covid-19 Cases