They're targeting recently diagnosed patients with a re-purposed compound that's already been tested for use against viruses that cause hepatitis. It's a form of interferon called interferon-lambda.
It's one dose under the skin, it's not even as deep as a flu shot, it's right under the skin. And the formulation is it'll last in your body for a week," says investigator Upinder Singh, M.D.
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Dr. Singh says the interferon works to call the body's natural immune system into action and has been shown to have an effect on influenza and earlier versions of SARS. Lab tests and animal models suggest it may help with Covid-19 as well.
"This compound was not made for COVID-19, but because we know that it's safe, it's easy to give, it has anti-viral activity, we think this is a good compound to test. And now we also have really good animal data."
She says the trial is concentrating on patients who are within three days of diagnosis, and haven't developed serious secondary conditions. The goal would be to develop an early treatment for milder cases, to help them recover faster and avoid being hospitalized.
"It's very similar to Tamaflu for influenza. You now, if you get the flu, you call your doctor, you get the medication, you really want to take it in the first two to three days," says Dr. Singh.
Approximately 120 patients will be sorted into two groups, with one given a placebo, the other the interferon. Doctors will monitor them for four-weeks, to measure their symptoms and severity of the illness. If all goes well, they hope to have preliminary results to report in as early as eight weeks.
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Researchers also hope the drug could possibly provide an alternative to Remdesivir, which is approved for emergency use in patients who are already hospitalized.
If you're interested in learning more about participating in the Stanford trial: https://med.stanford.edu/id/covid19/lambda.html
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