Scientists have identified a collection of drugs with the potential to benefit tens of thousands of patients who are admitted to intensive care with life-threatening coronavirus infections.
The breakthrough emerged from a major study of critically ill patients that revealed a suite of genes involved in antiviral defences and lung inflammation that leave people at greater risk of developing severe Covid disease.
The team, led by Edinburgh University researchers, spotted five genes that raised the risk of severe illness, pointing them towards a handful of drugs that are expected to help susceptible patients. The medicines will now be prioritised for clinical trials.
The analysis revealed key differences in five genes, named IFNAR2, TYK2, OAS1, DPP9 and CCR2, which partially explained why the sick patients became critically ill. Having identified the troublesome genes, the team was able to predict what drug treatments were likely to help.
“This is a wonderful breakthrough, really, in understanding what causes the severe disease,” said Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London and a co-author on the study.
The findings have been shared with groups around the world who are running clinical trials to assess whether drugs that are already in use for other conditions can help save patients with severe Covid-19 disease. Those include the World Health Organization’s Solidarity trial, Oxford University’s Recovery trial and an international trial named Remap-Cap.
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