Researchers at UCSF have begun testing a blend of two of the most promising treatments for COVID-19 in the hope that the blend will be the “golden ticket” people are looking for. inactivates coronavirus and alleviates anxiety in the world.
The doctors conducting the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, treated their first patient last week with the combination of remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed for treatment. Ebola and interferon, an anti-inflammatory drug that is used for people with multiple sclerosis.
It is hoped that, together, the two drugs will cut the duration and severity of illness and reduce the number of deaths caused by SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus that causes specific COVID-19.
“We are looking for the golden ticket,” said Peter Chin-Hong, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at UCSF, who is on the research team. “The gold medalist will be a combination of drugs that will help you reach your sweet spot.”
Remdesivir, produced by Gilead Sciences of the City of Foster, interferes with the process by which the coronavirus replicates itself. A large study led by the federal government generated excitement in late April when hospitalized patients given intravenous remdesivir recovered faster than those given a placebo.
Doctors have been using remdesivir to treat seriously ill patients ever since. The point is that there is conflicting evidence as to whether remdesivir reduces the number of deaths, so “it’s not my drug Olympics gold medalist,” Chin-Hong said. “It’s a silver medalist.”
That’s when beta interferon came in. A recent UK study found that hospitalized people who inhaled interferon as an asthma medication recover faster. He said preliminary research, which had not been peer reviewed, showed an 80% reduction in both the number of deaths and the number of patients using the breathing tube compared to those taking the placebo.
Interferon has also worked in laboratory studies of SARS, a coronavirus identified in 2003 in China, and MERS, discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Respiratory diseases caused by This virus causes symptoms similar to those found in people infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Another benefit is that interferon is readily available, relatively cheap and can be provided to patients at home, Chin-Hong adds.
“That is why interferon is the pet today,” he said.
The plan is to enroll patients at UCSF and about 100 other parts of the world. About 1,000 patients in the study will receive remdesivir infusion. Half will also receive an injection of interferon, while the other half will receive a placebo injection. The researchers then study how the patients in each group react over time.
Chin-Hong says the combination is needed because remdesivir is designed to attack viruses, while interferon reduces inflammation. Inflammatory reaction, known as cytokine storm, is a serious problem in COVID-19 patients with immune systems overreacting to the disease, exacerbating infection in the lungs and organs. other.
If the two drugs work well together, researchers think they could use it as an outpatient treatment that could prevent hospitalization. Gilead Sciences is working on an aerosolized remdesivir formulation that can be inhaled at home.
“That means I can provide patients with something that can reduce hospital admissions, reduce mortality and reduce the need for a breathing tube,” Chin-Hong said. “All of these things will make me feel excited.”
Art Reingold, a professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and not involved in the study, warned against placing too high hopes.
“It would be great if it worked,” said Reingold. “But many things don’t.”
John Swartzberg, an infectious disease specialist at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, also underestimated the potential benefits of the two-drug combination. “Perhaps this is a glimmer of hope for those seriously ill from COVID-19, (but) this is certainly not a game changer,” he said. “What we need is something on the other end of the COVID-19 spectrum: an oral drug that is taken at the first sign of illness or after exposure. That would be a game changer! “
These two drugs are not the only ones with promise. The steroid dexamethasone significantly reduced mortality in critically ill COVID-19 patients in a recent drug trial conducted by the University of Oxford. That finding marks the first time that any coronavirus treatment has been shown to prevent death.
Chin-Hong said remdesivir, dexamethasone and other treatments and techniques developed during the pandemic have reduced deaths in hospitals across the country, providing hope and motivation to increase search for More effective treatments.
Peter Fimrite is a writer of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @pfimrite