COVID patients treated with hepatitis drug FOUR times more likely to have cleared infection quickly – Daily Mail

Coronavirus patients treated with a experimental hepatitis drug were FOUR times more likely to have cleared the infection within seven days, study finds

  • Peginterferon-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
  • Receptors for the drug are found in the linings of the lungs and intestine – the main areas where COVID-19 attacks – and the liver 
  • Researchers gave half of a group of 60 coronavirus patients one injection of the drug and the other half a placebo 
  • Patients given the drug were four times more likely to have undetectable loads by day seven than the placebo group 
  • Among the 60 patients, five went to emergency rooms, of which four were in the placebo group and one was in the treatment group.

COVID-19 patients treated with an experimental hepatitis drug were able to clear the virus faster, a new study suggests.

Those with mild symptoms were given peginterferon-lambda, which 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 found patients who received one injection of the medication were four times more likely to have undetectable viral loads within seven days compared to a group treated with a placebo. 

The team, from the Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, University Health Network, says the findings provide evidence that the drug could help curb community spread of the virus while vaccine are rolled out. 

Researchers gave half of a group of 60 coronavirus patient one injection of an experimental hepatitis drug and the other half a placebo. Patients given the drug were four times more likely to have undetectable loads by day seven than the placebo group (above)

Researchers gave half of a group of 60 coronavirus patient one injection of an experimental hepatitis drug and the other half a placebo. Patients given the drug were four times more likely to have undetectable loads by day seven than the placebo group (above)

Researchers gave half of a group of 60 coronavirus patient one injection of an experimental hepatitis drug and the other half a placebo. Patients given the drug were four times more likely to have undetectable loads by day seven than the placebo group (above)

Peginterferon-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 (above)

Peginterferon-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 (above)

Peginterferon-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 (above)

‘This treatment has large therapeutic potential, especially at this moment as we see aggressive variants of the virus spreading around the globe which are less sensitive to both vaccines and treatment with antibodies,’ said Dr Jordan Feld, a liver specialist at the Toronto Center for Liver Disease. 

Peginterferon-lambda has been described in the past as issuing 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 peginterferon-lambda can help avoid the need for hospitalization.       

For the study, published in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, the team looked at 60 COVID-19 outpatients, those who don’t need hospitalization between May 2020 and November 2020 at six centers. 

Half of the patients were randomly assigned to received either one injection of peginterferon-lambda or a placebo within seven days of symptom onset or within seven days of first positive swab if asymptomatic. 

One week after in the injection, 80 percent of participants in the peginterferon-lambda group had undetectable viral loads, compared with 63 percent in the placebo group. 

After controlling for baseline viral load, patients given the drug were four times more likely to have undetectable loads by day seven than the control group.

The treatment was even more apparent in participants with higher viral levels, above one million copies per milliliter.

Fifteen of 19 patients in the peginterferon-lambda group with these high levels had undetectable loads by day seven compared with six of 16 in the placebo group.

‘People who were treated cleared the virus quickly, and the effect was most pronounced in those with the highest viral levels,’ Dr Feld.

‘We also saw a trend towards quicker improvement of respiratory symptoms in the treatment group.

Among the 60 patients, five went to emergency rooms, of which four were in the placebo group and one was in the treatment group.  

Feld said the drug helps bring down virus levels quickly, which prevents people from getting worse or spreading the disease to others.

‘If we can decrease the virus level quickly, people are less likely to spread the infection to others and we may even be able to shorten the time required for self-isolation,’ he said.

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