A new COVID-19 treatment that is inhaled directly into the lungs is being tested in Britain.
A clinical trial of aerosolized interferon beta protein that is delivered into the patient’s body using a nebulizer began Tuesday. The drug was developed by researchers at University Hospital Southampton and produced by the biotech firm Synairgen.
According to The Week, the new drug has been shown to reduce the odds of COVID-19 patients developing severe symptoms by an impressive 80% in a phase 2 trial of 100 patients. The phase 3 trial, which begins this week, has over 600 volunteers in 20 countries, with half receiving the inhaled COVID-19 treatment and the other half getting a placebo.
Interferon beta protein is part of the immune system’s first line of defense against viruses, but COVID-19 appears to suppress its production to avoid being targeted, according to the BBC News. The new drug delivers the protein into the lungs and triggers a stronger anti-viral response even in weakened patients. In phase 2 trials, patients were two to three times more likely to regain their health to return to everyday activities when given the treatment. Hospitalization time was also reduced by a third.
The treatment was developed by the Southampton research team after it was discovered that people with chronic lung disease, such as asthma, have low levels of interferon beta. They thought that by boosting the patients’ levels of this protein, they could improve their condition. Since research has shown that COVID-19 can suppress interferon beta levels, the same treatment could help patients with the virus recover.
While the early trials have been successful, experts warn that promising treatments do not always pan out, according to The Week.
“We’ve had other drugs in similar circumstances, we’ve had hydroxychloroquine, for example,” Dr. Lamis Latif, an urgent care physician in London, told BBC News. “But again it, when that reached further trials, it wasn’t as promising as it initially made up to be.”
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