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Race to create Covid-19 treatment as clinical trial given go-ahead

Current NHS advice is to take paracetamol to treat symptoms.

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The NHS says people should take paracetamol to relieve symptoms (Lauren Hurley/PA)

The NHS says people should take paracetamol to relieve symptoms (Lauren Hurley/PA)

The NHS says people should take paracetamol to relieve symptoms (Lauren Hurley/PA)

There is no specific treatment for the current coronavirus pandemic, but clinical trials are due to begin soon.

As things stand, treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness.

Advice from the NHS says that people should take paracetamol to relieve symptoms, unless they have been told by doctors not to.

University of Southampton researchers are trialling an inhaled drug that could prevent worsening of Covid-19 in those most at risk.

Right now we need effective frontline treatments to give doctors the tools to treat the most vulnerable and to help patients recover quickly as the pressure on health systems mountsProfessor Tom Wilkinson

The trial, led by Tom Wilkinson, professor of respiratory medicine in the faculty of medicine and a consultant in respiratory medicine at University Hospital Southampton, will involve 100 patients at Southampton and up to ten other NHS hospitals.

Participants will receive the current Covid-19 care, while inhaling either a placebo or SNG001, a special formulation of the naturally occurring antiviral protein interferon beta 1a (IFN-beta), for 14 days.

The trial will be undertaken with Synairgen, a drug development company founded by University of Southampton professors Stephen Holgate, Donna Davies and Ratko Djukanovic.

SNG001 has been developed to prevent severe lower respiratory tract illness caused by cold and flu infections when they spread to the lungs.

Phase II clinical trials in asthmatic patients have previously shown that the drug is well tolerated, enhances the lungs’ antiviral defences and improves lung function during cold or flu infection.

Professor Wilkinson said: “Covid-19 is presenting a major challenge to vulnerable patients, the health service and wider society, whilst a vaccine will be key, that could some time away.

“Right now we need effective frontline treatments to give doctors the tools to treat the most vulnerable and to help patients recover quickly as the pressure on health systems mounts.”

Richard Marsden, chief executive of of Synairgen, added: “We have worked intensively with the relevant authorities and collaborators to enable SNG001 to be assessed in Covid-19 patients.

“A successful outcome from this trial in Covid-19 patients would be a major breakthrough in the fight against this coronavirus pandemic.”

Prof Ian Hall, professor of molecular medicine, University of Nottingham, said: “The Synairgen trial, which has been given expedited approval by the regulatory authorities, involves administering a drug called interferon beta, which is a molecule which forms part of the lungs’ own defence mechanism to fight off viruses.

“The idea behind the trial is that by giving more of this molecule to the lung this could help reduce the severity of infection with Covid-19, especially in those people who have reduced immune responses to the virus.”

Researchers across the world are working on developing various specific medications to treat Covid-19.

This includes treatments such as Chloroquine which is usually used to treat malaria, and Remdesivir which is a potent antiviral in current development as an anti-Ebola virus treatment.

PA