successful trials for a new treatment for the virus

Faced with potential new variants, this injection would halve the risk of hospitalization in the event of infection.

A single injection of a new antiviral treatment for Covid-19 halved the risk of hospitalization in case of infection in clinical trials, according to a study published on Wednesday, which the authors hope will lead on a new drug for patients.

Even if Covid-19 is no longer in the headlines, the development of new treatment options remains crucial, especially in the face of new variants, said Jeffrey Glenn, professor of immunology at Stanford University and co-author of the study, published in the journal NEJM.

Nearly 500 people still die from the disease every day in the United States.

A defense mechanism distinct from antibodies

The treatment in question uses interferons, crucial proteins in the immune response. They are secreted in the presence of a virus, and attach themselves to the receptors of certain cells, then triggering “an innate antiviral defense mechanism” (distinct from antibodies), explained Jeffrey Glenn.

There are several types of interferons, including those called lambdas. Their particularity is that they attach themselves in particular to the cells of the lungs – precisely where Covid-19 is rife.

The treatment consists of an injection of a synthetic version of lambda interferons, within 7 days after the appearance of the first symptoms of Covid-19.

It was tested in a clinical trial on more than 1,900 adults infected with Covid, between June 2021 and February 2022, in Brazil and Canada. Some 85% of patients were vaccinated.

Of the 931 people who received the treatment, 25 were hospitalized, compared with 57 of the 1,018 people who received a placebo, a reduction of 51%, according to the study. The results are even better by isolating unvaccinated patients.

More convenient than Paxlovid

“It’s spectacular,” commented Jeffrey Glenn, who founded the company Eiger biopharmaceuticals that developed the treatment (he still owns shares in the company).

This one-shot treatment offers a practical advantage over Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid, which requires taking dozens of pills over five days, he argued.

And some treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, as well as vaccines, have gradually lost their effectiveness in the face of new variants. Since interferons interact with cells, the treatment will not be affected by the evolution of the virus.

According to Eiger biopharmaceuticals, which had previously published these results in a press release, the American Medicines Agency (FDA) did not respond to an emergency authorization request.

But Jeffrey Glenn was optimistic: “I’m hopeful this study will help encourage regulators here and around the world to find a way to get (this treatment) to patients, as quickly as possible.”

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