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Coronavirus: Trial hopes hepatitis drug can help limit spread

A clinical trial is underway to test if a drug for hepatitis works as an experimental treatment against the novel coronavirus.

Interferon-lambda is a man-made form of a naturally occurring protein that helps bring respiratory diseases under control by calling immune system cells to the infection site.

Researchers from Stanford Medicine want to see if the medication helps patients recover faster and reduces viral shedding so the pathogen doesn’t spread to others. 

With no vaccines yet, or treatments that are approved outside of emergency use, the team says the drug could help limit the spread of the highly-contagious virus. 

Interferon-lambda is a man-made form of a naturally occurring protein that calls for immune cells to attack a virus and is mainly used to treat hepatitis patients. Pictured: Valerie McCarthy is examined by Dr Hector Bonilla as she participates in Stanford's clinical trial

Interferon-lambda is a man-made form of a naturally occurring protein that calls for immune cells to attack a virus and is mainly used to treat hepatitis patients. Pictured: Valerie McCarthy is examined by Dr Hector Bonilla as she participates in Stanford's clinical trial

Interferon-lambda is a man-made form of a naturally occurring protein that calls for immune cells to attack a virus and is mainly used to treat hepatitis patients. Pictured: Valerie McCarthy is examined by Dr Hector Bonilla as she participates in Stanford’s clinical trial 

Researchers want to see if the drug can keep patients with mild coronavirus cases out of the hospital and stop the virus from shedding. Pictured: A nurse stands with a COVID-19 patient during a Zoom video call in the ICU at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, April 24

Researchers want to see if the drug can keep patients with mild coronavirus cases out of the hospital and stop the virus from shedding. Pictured: A nurse stands with a COVID-19 patient during a Zoom video call in the ICU at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, April 24

Researchers want to see if the drug can keep patients with mild coronavirus cases out of the hospital and stop the virus from shedding. Pictured: A nurse stands with a COVID-19 patient during a Zoom video call in the ICU at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, April 24

According to Stanford, interferon-lambda issues a ‘call in the troops’ command so immune cells can fight off diseases.

Receptors for the drug are found in the linings of the lungs and intestine – the main areas where COVID-19 attacks – and the liver.  

Most experimental treatments are being studied in hospitalized patients, but researchers want to see if interferon-lambda can help avoid the need for hospitalization. 

Investigators are recruiting 120 participants who have been diagnosed with mild cases of coronavirus.

Patients will either be given single skin-deep injections of interferon-lambda or of a placebo and if the virus sheds. 

‘Even though these individuals may not need hospitalization, infection with COVID-19 results in respiratory symptoms and lost productivity,’ co-lead author Dr Upinder Singh, a professor of infectious diseases and of microbiology and immunology at Stanford School of Medicine, said in a statement.

‘Plus – and this is important – patients with mild disease contribute to community disease transmission. 

‘Limiting viral shedding from this group would reduce transmission to family members and others, which is crucial to controlling epidemic disease spread.’ 

Interferon-lambda is also sometimes used to treat cancer, but it isn’t the only drug being tested as an experimental treatment. 

Chimerix, a company based in North Carolina is planning a clinical trial to test if drug derived from the blood thinner heparin for a form of leukemia reduces bleeding and inflammation in coronavirus patients.

Additionally, Massachusetts-based Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc is studying if selinexor, a drug used to treat a rare type of bone marrow cancer, can keep the virus from replicating throughout the body.

In the US, there are more than 1.6 million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 98,000 deaths.

Source: Daily Mail | Health

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