COVID-19 research update

There are currently 289 worldwide interventional studies on COVID (that is trials that involve a drug or procedure to treat patients) and in total there are more than 1000 active trials of all types ongoing trying to improve the data and our understanding of this new disease. That is a huge research effort built up in a very short time. Below is a snap-shot of current research and how it will benefit the PID community.

Vaccine development

We all know how much a vaccine against COVID-19 is needed. This great article from the Wellcome Trust gives an insight into the stages involved and how the timescales of usual development are being dramatically speeded up to address the urgent need.  Thankfully, initiatives at Imperial College London and Oxford University are leading efforts to develop a vaccine and collaborative partnerships are being struck with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that infrastructure is in place for large-scale production if an effective vaccine is found. 

The RECOVERY project

This UK project aims to help identify the best treatments for COVID-19 through large randomised controlled trials. Treatments that are being looked at include: Hydroxychloroquine; Azithromycin; Kaletra and Tocilizumab. You can read more about the RECOVERY programme at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/worlds-largest-trial-of-potential-coronavirus-treatments-rolled-out-across-the-uk

Trials of ‘convalescent’ plasma treatment

Dr Matthew Buckland, Chair of PID UK’s Medical Advisory Panel says ‘Plasma treatment for COVID is being considered based on a few promising cases in China and past experience with Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS). Plasma from people who have cleared infection appears to help those who are sick clear infection more quickly. Trials are needed to see if it really helps people get out of hospital more quickly too. There have been lots of offers from people to donate. If it works it may be an option for PID patients who don’t make antibodies to get some passive protection or treatment.’

The NHS is calling on people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood plasma, as part of a clinical trial to help work out how effective convalescent plasma is for treatment coronavirus patients.  Specific eligibility criteria apply and volunteers need to live near a donation centre.  Please encourage friends and family who have had COVID-19 and recovered to take part. Find out more at https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/how-you-can-help/convalescent-plasma-clinical-trial/

Anti-viral drug trials

The anti-viral drug Remdesivir is showing promise in the treatment of COVID-19. The results from the National Institutes of Health trial showed that the drug resulted in a faster time to recovery and a small reduction in death rate.  More trials are needed to fully confirm the data but very recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA has granted remdesivir emergency use status.

The anti-viral drug Favipiravir has also shown promise in an early study reducing the time to viral clearance.  Further trials are planned: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095809920300631

DNA studies

The store of DNA in the UK Biobank is being used to study why the severity of symptoms for COVID-19 varies so much between affected individuals.  Read more at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52243605

Posted 11th May 2020