A small study has found potential hope in the treatment of COVID-19.
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who received an inhaled form of interferon beta, a medicine often used in its injected form to treat diseases like multiple sclerosis, had a 79 percent lower risk of developing more debilitating symptoms, according to study results announced Monday by the British company Synairgen.
Patients who received the drug, known as SNG001, were also twice as likely to recover compared to those receiving a placebo.
"We are all delighted with the trial results,” the company’s CEO Richard Marsden said in a press release.
Marsden said the results “showed that SNG001 greatly reduced the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients who progressed from requiring oxygen to requiring ventilation.”
The double-blind placebo-controlled study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, also found patients who received the inhaled drug were twice as likely to return to regular daily activities without limitation and their average hospital stay was cut from nine days to six days. The release also states patients had fewer complaints of breathlessness, a common symptom in those suffering from COVID-19. The study included 101 patients.
One of the trial investigators, Tom Wilkinson, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Southampton, explained that interferon-beta “has huge potential as an inhaled drug to be able to restore the lung’s immune response, enhancing protection, accelerating recovery and countering the impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
Study investigators said SARS-COV-2 attacks the lung’s initial ability to fight off a virus.
“Our inhaled treatment of giving high local concentrations of interferon beta, a naturally occurring antiviral protein, restores the lung’s ability to neutralize the virus, or any mutation of the virus or co-infection with another respiratory virus such as influenza or RSV, as could be encountered in the winter if there is a resurgence of COVID-19,” one of Synairgen’s co-founders, Stephen Holgate, a medical research council clinical professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, said in the release.
Dr. Charles Powell, chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told Fox News that this inhaled version of interferon-beta may help patients who can not tolerate other antiviral medication potentially used in treating coronavirus due to side effects, such as liver toxicity.
“Using a drug that acts locally on the lung can reduce the toxic effects in the rest of the body,” Powell, who is also the chief executive of the Mount Sinai-National Jewish Health Respiratory Institute, said.
Though Powell noted that the preliminary study is intriguing, he warned that it’s “too early to know the promise of the drug. The promise will be demonstrated by full disclosure of the safety data and by future larger clinical trials."
“This assessment of SNG001 in COVID-19 patients could signal a major breakthrough in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Our efforts are now focused on working with the regulators and other key groups to progress this potential COVID-19 treatment as rapidly as possible," Marsden said in the release.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were more than 3.8 million infections and at least 141,426 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States.