This familiar drug may help treat COVID-19

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For the past year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to engulf the globe, fueled in part by novel variants and the uneven distribution of vaccines.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of new COVID-19 cases and thousands of new deaths are still being reported worldwide, creating a need for drugs that can combat the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

In a new study from Harvard Medical School, researchers found a well-known and widely available drug called disulfiram may work as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

They found patients taking disulfiram for alcoholism were less likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, and those who did get infected were less likely to die from COVID-19 than those not taking the drug.

The researchers say the results are encouraging enough to warrant further study and clinical testing.

The precise mechanism of the drug against SARS-CoV-2 is not yet known, but they have hypothesized that it may prevent the virus from taking hold by interfering with an enzyme it requires to replicate.

Additionally, disulfiram may blunt the symptoms of severe COVID-19 by inhibiting a protein involved in hyperinflammation. If disulfiram’s effect against SARS-CoV-2 is confirmed, it could become a useful tool against the virus.

In the study, the team used computational techniques to analyze a large database of clinical records from the national Veterans Affairs health care system.

The analysis included 944,127 veterans who had at least one SARS-CoV-2 test between February 2020 and February 2021; of these, 2,233 had been prescribed disulfiram for alcoholism.

Veterans taking disulfiram had a 34% lower incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection than those who weren’t. Moreover, no one on disulfiram who was infected with the virus died, compared with 3% of those infected and not on the drug.

The findings suggest that disulfiram not only reduces the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, but may actually reduce the number of deaths.

A small randomized phase 2 clinical trial of disulfiram in patients with moderate COVID-19 is nearing completion, and another is underway.

The authors hope that the study will motivate large international phase 3 trials of the drug. Noting that it would be unrealistic to give the drug as a preventative measure, they are especially interested in how patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 fare on disulfiram.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about this drug holds promise as at-home treatment for COVID-19 and findings of this common drug may prevent deadly inflammation in COVID-19.

For more information about COVID drugs, please see recent studies about this new drug 10 times more effective fighting COVID-19 and results showing that these 3 common antiviral drugs may effectively fight COVID-19.

The study is published in PLOS ONE. One author of the study is Judy Lieberman.

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