Researchers testing experimental drug on critically ill coronavirus patients say it prevented their disease from progressing in 79% of cases.
The experimental drug known as SNG001 is an inhaled formulation of beta-interferon developed by the pharmaceutical company Synairgen and was given to patients in hospital with COVID-19 who needed oxygen assistance.
Although the treatment had already been shown to improve the recovery of asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients who had other lung infections, such as flu, it was not known if it would help coronavirus patients.
The trial was conducted on a double-blind and placebo-controlled basis meaning neither the researchers nor the patients knew whether they were receiving SNG001 or a placebo.
It found the number of patients who ended up developing the most severe form of the disease – to the point where they required ventilation or they died – was reduced by 79% for those taking SNG001 compared with those on the placebo.
Three people who took part in the trial died after being randomly assigned to the placebo, Synairgen confirmed. There were no deaths among those patients treated with SNG001.
The drug is an inhaled formulation of beta-interferon which a naturally occurring protein that orchestrates the body’s anti-viral responses, and is also used to treat the auto-immune disease Multiple Sclerosis.
Scientists believe it will prevent the coronavirus from taking over lung cells to make further copies of itself, as reported by Sky News.