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Inhaled treatment could help severe COVID disease

Friday November 13th 2020

An inhaled immune system protein, developed for asthma, can help patients with severe COVID-19 disease, British researchers have reported.

The study of interferon beta-1a involved 101 patients in Southampton.

Researchers report that use of the inhaled treatment doubled the chance of patients recovered to the extent of being able to resume everyday activities.

The findings were reported in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

They show that 11 out of 50 patients receiving placebo developed severe disease compared with six of the 48 patients receiving the interferon treatment. There was a similar difference in recovery rates over 14 days – 21 of those receiving treatment compared with 11 of those on placebo.

Researcher Professor Tom Wilkinson, from Southampton University, said: The results confirm our belief that interferon beta, a widely known drug approved for use in its injectable form for other indications, may have the potential as an inhaled drug to restore the lung's immune response and accelerate recovery from COVID-19. Inhaled interferon beta-1a provides high, local concentrations of the immune protein, which boosts lung defences rather than targeting specific viral mechanisms.

“This might carry additional advantages of treating COVID-19 infection when it occurs alongside infection by another respiratory virus, such as influenza or respiratory syncytial virus that may well be encountered in the winter months."

The journal reports that a trial of injected interferon has not demonstrated efficacy – but that the inhaled treatment may ensure delivery to the lungs.

Writing in the journal Nathan Peiffer-Smadja, from Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris, France, says: "The number of patients enrolled in this pilot clinical trial is of course small. In addition, this study neither showed any impact of the evaluated treatment on time to discharge nor on mortality, although the study was obviously not powered to respond to the latter question. Larger randomised clinical trials are therefore needed to confirm these results.

“The safety of nebulised interferon beta-1a will be of special interest since nebulisation of interferon has no marketing authorisation for any indication yet.”

Lancet Respiratory Medicine 12 November 2020

[abstract]

Tags: Flu & Viruses | Pharmaceuticals | Respiratory | UK News

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