Large trial of new Covid-19 treatment begins

The trial will involve over 600 people across 20 countries. The team managing the trial say it should be completed by the summer. 

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Large trial of new Covid-19 treatment begins
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The trial will involve over 600 people across 20 countries. The team managing the trial say it should be completed by the summer. 

The treatment involves patients inhaling a protein, interferon beta, in the form of a fine mist, which allowed patients to inhale the substance. Interferon beta is the same protein produced naturally by the human body when we get viral infections. 

The trial will see a nebuliser used to turn the protein into a breathable mist, which is then handed to the patient. The patient then inhales the mist, breathing as deeply as they can. 

One way the virus attacks the human immune system is by stunting the natural production of interferon beta. Therefore, the aim of the treatment is to stimulate the cells usually activated when a virus infects the body, triggering the immune system to fight any viruses in the body. 

On Tuesday, the first person received the treatment at Hull Royal Infirmary was 34-year-old Alexandra Constantin. She was admitted to hospital with Covid-19 on Monday, leaving her young daughter at home. She is desperate to get back to her. 

During the early stages of this trial, results have suggested that this form of treatment can potentially reduce the chances of someone developing severe illness by about 80%. This way, those in hospital may no longer require intensive care such as ventilation. 

The treatment has been developed and produced by Synairgen, a Southampton-based biotech company. 

The estimated cost of the treatment is £2,000, relatively inexpensive for a hospital treatment. The chief executive of Synairgen, Richard Marsden, told the BBC, "To be viable it will have to represent good value for money."

Synairgen has also shown that the treatment can be safely administered, even to those who have asthma and various other lung conditions.

In a smaller, earlier trial of this treatment conducted by Synairgen, results also suggested the likelihood of a patient's recovery grew two to three times following treatment. In addition, results showed a "very significant" decrease in people's breathlessness after they had received the treatment. However, this trial was only conducted on a small group of around 100 patients, and further research is needed before it can be authorised and delivered on a large scale. 

The University of Southampton’s Professor Tom Wilkinson is overseeing the trial. He said, "If we had a positive study, we would hope to move rapidly into scaled manufacture and delivery of the drug in clinical practice." 

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