Aerosol-based drug therapy could drastically reduce the number of new coronavirus patients who die from the disease or require intensive care, according to preliminary results released by a British biotech company.
In a 100-patient randomized trial admitted to hospital with COVID-19, those who received inhaled beta interferon protein had an 79% lower risk of developing serious disease compared to those who received placebo .
They were also more than twice as likely to recover fully compared to the control group.
The company behind the treatment, known as SNG001, said preliminary results suggested “a major breakthrough” in the pandemic.
“We are all delighted with the test results announced today, which have shown that SNG001 has significantly reduced the number of COVID-19 hospital patients who have switched from oxygen to ventilation,” said Richard Marsden, CEO of Synairgen.
The results released on Monday have not yet been peer reviewed and the sample size is relatively small. But if confirmed, the treatment could revolutionize the way COVID-19 is treated in hospitals.
Interferon beta is a natural protein, commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis.
It’s part of the body’s natural fight against infection, and the new coronavirus suppresses its production in an attempt to evade an immune response.
The supply of protein directly into the lungs of patients is designed to trigger a robust immune response to the virus, even in patients whose immune systems are already weakened by infection.
“The results confirm our belief that interferon beta… has enormous potential as an inhaled drug to be able to restore the lung’s immune response,” said Tom Wilkinson, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Southampton.
He said the trial showed SNG001 to be effective in “improving protection, speeding up recovery, and countering the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
There are currently a number of treatments available for inpatients with COVID-19.
Last month, a team of researchers based in the United Kingdom led by the University of Oxford announced that it had successfully reduced the risk of death in critically ill patients by administering the commonly available steroid dexamethasone.
Several countries have also issued emergency authorization for treatment with antiviral remdesivir.