An inhaled form of interferon — a drug commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis by injection — may help protect hospitalized Covid-19 patients from getting worse, according to a British drugmaker.
Results were first released in July, but were published Thursday as a peer-reviewed study in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
The body naturally releases interferon when faced with an invader of some kind, such as a virus or other pathogen. Like the name suggests, it works by interfering with viral replication. Some researchers have suggested that Covid-19 patients tend to have a deficiency of interferon, especially in their blood and lungs.
In theory, boosting levels of interferon in the body would help patients fight off illnesses, such as Covid-19.
Indeed, a study published in May suggested that the coronavirus tends to inhibit the body’s natural interferon response.
A previous trial, called Solidarity, found that an infusion of the drug did nothing to reduce Covid-19 deaths or aid patients in recovering faster.
The new study from Synairgen, a drug company based in the U.K., used an inhaled type of interferon, called interferon beta-1a (SNG001). In this case, the drug is delivered directly to the respiratory tract.
The study was small, including just 98 patients, who were ill this past spring. About half received the actual drug every day for up to two weeks. The rest got a placebo. Researchers followed their progress for one month.
The study authors wrote that the interferon group “had greater odds of improvement and recovered more rapidly from SARS-CoV-2 infection than patients who received placebo.” SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes Covid-19.
Those who received the drug were twice as likely to improve by day 15 or 16.
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