Biotech companies around the world have devoted significant resources to studying the novel Coronavirus, which has killed more than 606,000 people and infected over 14 million as of now. Some of them are already yielding results in reducing the infection or mortality rates. One such firm, a U.K. based biotech company, has conducted a study in which it has got 'a breakthrough' in reducing the number of patients needing intensive care.
In the study, the company, Synairgen, used a protein named interferon beta to stimulate an immune response in COVID-19 patients that helped cut down on the intensive care requirement. The preliminary results of the clinical trial, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, indicated that the treatment could cut down the use of ventilators by 79 percent.
The interferon beta protein is produced by the body while facing a viral infection. Patients in the study inhaled the protein formulation or SNG001 directly into the lungs through a nebulizer and recovered better than the patients who received a placebo.
During the 16-day treatment period the 101 patients who received the SNG001 could even resume everyday activities, Synairgen claimed. Over the course of the treatment, the usage of the formulation was reduced to the point where there was "no clinical or virological evidence of infection." The patients when administered the drug also reported significant reductions in breathlessness and were discharged earlier than those receiving placebos.
"The results confirm our belief that interferon beta, a widely known drug that, by injection, has been approved for use in a number of other indications 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," said Tom Wilkinson, chief investigator of the trial and professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton.
Could Be A Game Changer
Synairgen's chief executive Richard Marsden told the BBC that the company would be submitting the trial results to the medical regulators around the world. If the study can prove its potential and convince the regulators, the drug can be as important as the anti-viral remdesivir which is currently being used to treat COVID-19 patients around the world.
Even though the process can take months, if the company's claims are to be believed, the drug can get emergency approval from the U.K. authorities. However, before terming the treatment a "game-changer" experts said that the study must be disclosed in full so that its full potential could be assessed.
"The results seem very impressive, and although accepted that the trial is small with just over 100 participants, a 79% reduction in disease severity could be a game-changer," Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, told BBC.
"It would be good to see the full results once presented and peer-reviewed to make sure they are robust and the trial conducted was rigorous," he said, adding that the small number of trial could bring less certainty on the true level of benefit. Such work would require a larger trial but he said the results were "very exciting."