In a new study from the University of Birmingham, researchers found a drug that may offer benefit to some patients hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia.
They tested namilumab (IZN-101) as a potential therapeutic to treat patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia.
They focused on levels of a marker of inflammation known as C reactive protein (CRP).
CRP levels rise when there is inflammation in the body, and elevated levels of CRP have been found to be a potential early marker to predict risk for severity of COVID-19.
The drug namilumab targets a ‘cytokine’ that is naturally secreted by immune cells in the body but, at uncontrolled levels, is believed to be a key driver of the excessive and dangerous lung inflammation seen in COVID-19 patients.
The study involved patients aged over 16 with COVID-19 pneumonia either being treated on a ward or Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at nine NHS hospitals across the UK.
The study tested 54 patients receiving ‘usual care’ (steroids and oxygen or ventilation, depending on the severity of disease) and 57 patients given usual care as well as a single intravenous dose of 150mg of namilumab.
As well as COVID-19 pneumonia, all study participants had CRP levels greater than 40mg/l. The researchers compared the probability of the reduction of levels of CRP in patients.
Compared to usual care alone, the researchers found there was a 97% probability of CRP being reduced over time in those given namilumab when compared with usual care alone.
The patients were monitored, and after 28 days the study also showed there were fewer deaths and more discharges from hospital or ICU in those who had been given namilumab compared to those receiving usual care alone.
By day 28, 78% (43) of the patients receiving namilumab were discharged from hospital or ICU, compared to 61% (33) of the patients given usual care.
In the namilumab group, 11% (6) were still in hospital by day 28, compared to 20% (11) in the usual care group. Of those in the namilumab group, 11% (6) patients died compared to 19% (10) who died in the usual care group by day 28.
Of those on a ward, the probability of discharge at day 28 was 64% in the usual care cohort, compared to 77% in the Namilumab cohort.
Of those in ICU, the probability of discharge at day 28 was 47% in the usual care group, compared to 66% in the Namilumab cohort.
The research has provided important evidence that namilumab reduces inflammation in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia.
It is important, therefore, that namilumab is now prioritized for further COVID-19 research.
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The study is published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. One author of the study is Dr. Ben Fisher.
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