Drug trial to make COVID-19 patients less infectious
Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute will lead a trial to test the effectiveness of the drug interferon in stopping outbreaks of COVID-19 by reducing the infectiousness of people who contract the SARS-Cov-2 virus.
The CoCo (Containing Coronavirus) Study will be led by paediatric infectious diseases physician Professor Tobias Kollmann and respiratory specialist Professor Stephen Stick, with the help of researchers from WA, NSW and Queensland who will work together to recruit 260 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and their direct contacts. It has been made possible through a $2.665 million donation from the BHP Vital Resources Fund and is expected to start later this month.
“People infected with this novel coronavirus have been known to shed the virus and be contagious for up to five days prior to developing symptoms and for weeks after onset of symptoms, which is likely to be a major driver of the pandemic,” said Telethon Kids Institute Director Professor Jonathan Carapetis.
“This trial focuses on containing the virus by administering a type of interferon to infected cases and their contacts to reduce viral shedding, particularly from those with no symptoms or prior to the onset of symptoms.
“We want to see whether administering interferon to those positive cases and those who have been recently exposed to a case could possibly stop the spread of the virus and, with that, the pandemic.”
Interferon is a naturally occurring protein that is known to boost the immune system and help the body fight infection. It is commonly used to treat people with multiple sclerosis, but an exploratory study by Prof Kollmann and collaborators in Wuhan, the original epicentre of the current pandemic, found that interferon therapy reduced the duration that a patient was infectious.
“As the CoCo trial is focused on reducing viral transmission, this will give us an additional strategy, over and above quarantining and isolation, to stop outbreaks before they begin,” Prof Carapetis said. “This in turn will help prepare Australia, and the rest of the world, for other pockets of outbreaks as they too start to carefully lift restrictions.”
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