Successful trials for a new treatment for COVID-19

Successful trials for new treatment for COVID-19


A single injection of a new antiviral treatment for COVID-19 halved the risk of hospitalization from infection in clinical trials, according to a study published Wednesday, including the authors hope it will lead to a new medicine for patients. 

Even if COVID-19 is no longer in the headlines, the development of new treatment options remains crucial, especially in the face of new variants, Jeffrey Glenn, professor of immunology at Stanford University and co-author of the study, published in the journal NEJM.

Nearly 500 people still die from the disease every day in the United States.

The treatment in question uses interferons, crucial proteins in the immune response. They are secreted in the presence of a virus, and attach themselves to the receptors of certain cells, thus triggering “an innate antiviral defense mechanism” (distinct from antibodies), explained Jeffrey Glenn.

There is several types of interferons, including those called lambdas. Their particularity is that they attach in particular to the cells of the lungs – precisely where COVID-19 is rife.

The treatment consists of an injection of a synthetic version of lambda interferons, in the 7 days after the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear. 

It was tested in a clinical trial on more than 1,900 adults infected with COVID, between June 2021 and February 2022, in Brazil and Canada. Some 85% of patients were vaccinated. 

Of the 931 people who received the treatment, 25 were hospitalized, compared to 57 of the 1,018 people who received a placebo, a reduction of 51%, according to the study. Results are even better by isolating unvaccinated patients. 

“It's spectacular,” commented Jeffrey Glenn, who founded the Eiger biopharmaceutical company that developed the treatment (he still owns a stake in the company). 

This treatment in one single injection offers a practical advantage over Pfizer's antiviral drug Paxlovid, which requires taking dozens of pills over five days, he argued. 

And some treatments, such as Monoclonal antibodies, as well as vaccines, have gradually lost their effectiveness in the face of new variants. Since interferons interact with cells, the treatment will not be affected by the evolution of the virus.

According to Eiger biopharmaceutical, which previously published these results in a press release, the United States Agency for drugs (FDA) did not respond to an urgent request for authorization.

But Mr. Glenn was optimistic: “I am hopeful that this study will help encourage regulators here and around the world to find a way to bring (this treatment) to patients, as quickly as possible. »