A recent clinical trial reported in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine shows that the protein Interferon Beta 1a when inhaled, reduces the chances of hospitalized early-stage Covid-19 patients becoming severely ill or dying.
The investigators conducted a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled phase II clinical trial at nine sites in the UK. The trial was done with 98 patients who were hospitalized with Covid-19. In the treatment group, Interferon Beta 1a was inhaled from a nebulizer for 14 days, versus placebo in the control group.
Patients in the treatment group were twice as likely to recover clinically at day 15 or 16: 21 of 48 (44%) versus 11 of 50 (22%) in the control group. Eleven of the 50 patients in the control group became severely ill or died compared to 6 of 48 in the treatment group. None of the patients in the treatment group died. However, the odds of hospital release at day 28 was not significantly different between the two groups.
Interferons are proteins that are created in response to viral infections. Interferon beta is a protein that coordinates the immune response to viral infections such as COVID-19, however the coronavirus suppresses its release. It is also known that some severe Covid-19 patients have antibodies against another important Interferon, Interferon Alpha. The theory behind the inhalation of Interferon Beta is to simply replace the lung’s supply of interferons by inhaling it directly into the lung.
This study clearly showed great promise, but further work is needed to confirm both the safety and effectiveness of Interferon Beta 1a.
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