A new drug which could prevent the formation of deadly blood clots in Covid-19 patients is set to be trialled in the UK, as scientists continue the search for an effective treatment against the virus.
Some 60 patients are to take part in the trial for TRV027, a molecule which targets specific immune responses that are thought to drive severe illness in those suffering from coronavirus.
A third of people hospitalised with Covid-19 develop dangerous blood clots, which can prove fatal.
Scientists believe that hormone imbalances in the blood triggered by SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, lead to the formation of these clots.
The trial, conducted by the British Heart Foundation and scientists at Imperial College London, will follow hospitalised patients for eight days during a critical period when intensive care, and often mechanical ventilation, is needed.
Half of the patients will be given TRV027, and half the patients will be given a placebo.
The molecule – developed by the drug company Trevena – aims to restore the balance between two key hormones which control blood pressure and affect blood vessels.
This balance is maintained by ACE-2, an enzyme that SARS-CoV-2 disables when it ends the body. As a result, the blood can become sticky, leading to clots throughout the body, and in particular the lungs.
The team behind the study theorise that TRV027 can address this hormone imbalance, limiting the severity of the virus’s effects.
The drug has been tested as a treatment for heart failure and was shown to be safe, although it was not found to be effective.
Dr Kat Pollock, senior clinical research fellow in vaccinology and honorary consultant at Imperial College London, who is jointly leading the study, said: “We need to move away from thinking of Covid-19 as solely a respiratory illness – it also has devastating effects on the rest of the body, including the blood vessels and heart.
“When this infection was first described, we were surprised to learn that people with heart and circulatory diseases appeared to be at risk.
“Our study will play an important role in understanding the mechanisms which make Covid-19 so dangerous and offers a potential treatment.”
Dr David Owen, senior clinical research fellow and clinical pharmacologist at Imperial College London, who is also leading the study, said: “This virus poses a huge challenge for researchers because so much about it is unknown.
“In order to fight it, we need a team effort. This project has brought together pathologists, virologists, pharmacologists and researchers who usually focus on heart and circulatory diseases.
“Drawing on this range of expertise will give us the best chance of finding a desperately needed treatment for Covid-19.”
TRV027 is one of several different drugs being trialled in the UK to ease the disease’s worst effects.
Earlier this month, trials began for five new drugs, each of which aims to target the various symptoms of Covid-19.
Up to 30 hospitals across the country are set to take part in the studies – overseen by the Accord (accelerating Covid-19 research and development) programme – which will aim to treat hundreds of coronavirus patients via a wide range of pathways.
The five drugs are: Heparin (a blood-thinning agent used in hospitals across the UK); Zilucoplan (an inhibiter which can limit the over activation of the immune system); Calquence (a drug which targets severe lung inflammation); Bemcentinib (a tablet which has been shown to have a potent antiviral effect); and Medi3506 (an anti-inflammatory injection).
The drugs were chosen from 200 potential candidates and if they prove unsuccessful in treating Covid-19, another round of medicines will be trialled.
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