An international team of researchers has found that an antiviral drug – interferon (IFN)-a2b — can help speed up the recovery of COVID-19 patients.
The study, which is published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, revealed that treatment with interferon(IFN)-a2b may significantly accelerate virus clearance and reduce levels of inflammatory proteins in COVID-19 patients.
“Rather than developing a virus-specific antiviral for each new virus outbreak, we should consider interferons as the ‘first responders’ in terms of treatment,” said researcher Dr Eleanor Fish.
Fish, a professor in the University of Toronto in Canada, heads the study.
The research team considered IFN-a therapy for COVID-19 after they demonstrated interferon provided therapeutic benefit during the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003.
They found that treatment with this drug, which has been used clinically for many years, significantly reduced the duration of detectable virus in the upper respiratory tract, on average by about seven days.
It also reduced blood levels of interleukin (IL)-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP), two inflammatory proteins found in COVID-19 patients.
For the findings, the researchers conducted this exploratory study on a group of 77 patients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China.
They represented moderate cases of the disease as none of the patients required intensive care or prolonged oxygen supplementation or intubation.
The researchers said he work provides several important and novel insights into COVID-19 disease, notably that treatment with IFN-a2b can accelerate viral clearance from the upper respiratory tract and also reduce circulating levels of inflammatory factors that are associated with severe COVID-19.
Dr Fish said a randomised clinical trial is a crucial next step.
According to her, a clinical trial with a larger group of infected patients who are randomised to treatment or placebo would further this research.
Another study, published in the journal The Lancet, stated that the two-week course of antiviral therapy that combines the power of three antiviral drugs has shown promise in treating hospitalised patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 virus.