A new drug whose final results are expected by the end of June is being tried at University Hospital Southampton. The bio-tech company Synairgen is the one carrying out the experiment which is based on the use of a protein that our body produce when we get infected with a virus, it is called interferon beta. Currently there are only few possible effective treatments for COVID in the world, so experts eagerly work on this drug in UK.
What is this new drug about?
Interferons are named after their capacity to interfere or diminish viral replication within host cells. They are proteins that our cells release to react against the presence of different pathogens such as parasites , bacteria, viruses or tumor cells. These proteins allow our cells to trigger the defenses of our immune system in order to eradicate pathogens or tumors. Certain symptoms can be developed in response to the production of interferon during infection, some of them are fever, migraine, muscular pains. ̏ Interferon beta is a protein from the body's first line of defense. Coronavirus seems to suppress its production as part of its strategy to evade our immune systems ̋, expressed the chief executive of Southampton-based Synairgen, Richard Marsden.
The new drug will be based on this protein which has already proved its effectiveness on the treatment of other diseases. Interferon beta- 1a and interferon beta-1b are used for the treatment and control of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder. The protein is effective in the treatment of that disease because it slows its progression which is basically what scientists are trying to obtain for COVID, a drug for delaying the progression of the disease in order to avoid patients from presenting the most severe symptoms.
Once the virus is on the airways, the drug, which is a special formulation of interferon beta, will be delivered directly to the tracheas expecting that a directly-applied dose of the protein could produce a strong anti-viral response even in people whose immune systems have already been affected. The Synairgen formula has already proved that it can be effective for patients with other respiratory diseases such as asthma but it cannot be affirmed that it will work for patients with COVID- 19, at least not until a rigorous clinical trial is made.
What does the trial consist on?
75 volunteers were chosen from 10 different hospitals in Britain. The drug will be applied to half of them, the other half will be applied what is known as a placebo. The patients will not even know what they were applied, if the drug or the placebo. The hope is that those patients who were applied the drug will do better than those who did not. The initial results of the formula are expected by the end of June. However, in case the drug shows positive results it will face scrutiny processes that could take months. Moreover, if the drug finally proves its effectiveness it will have to be massively manufactured along with the nebulizers for them to be distributed around the world and that could take some time too. Therefore, if this were the cure to the disease its production could take a year or more, there is still a long time to wait