Common high blood pressure drug may prevent COVID-19 complications

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists from Johns Hopkins found a drug treatment that may reduce the risk of death from the most serious complication of COVID-19.

They found prazosin, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved alpha-blocker that relaxes blood vessels, may specifically target an extreme inflammatory process called cytokine storm syndrome (CSS) that mainly affects older adults with underlying health conditions.

The research is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and was conducted by Chetan Bettegowda et al.

CSS is linked to disease severity and increased risk of death in COVID-19 infection.

In the study, the team found chemical ways of safely blocking the actions of catecholamines and cytokine responses.

They found cytokines enhance the inflammatory process that leads to severe COVID-19 symptoms.

In mouse models, the team found that prazosin—commonly used to treat blood pressure, prostate gland enlargement and other conditions—blocked catecholamines (hormones released by the adrenal glands when the body is under stress), reduced cytokine levels, and increased survival after exposure to agents that trigger cytokine storm responses similar to those observed in COVID-19.

Drugs that target CSS have been found to reduce the risk of death from other viral illnesses by up to 55%.

Prazosin is taken by mouth, costs less than $25 per month in the United States and has been safely taken by millions of people over the last two decades.

Using it to address COVID-19-related hyper-inflammation of the lungs and other organs has the potential to reduce deaths in the most vulnerable populations.

The researchers caution that although they believe if given early enough after viral exposure, the drug could prevent some deaths, it would not work in patients with advanced stages of the disease.

They also emphasize that controlled clinical trials for this novel use of prazosin are needed before it can be safely recommended.

If you care about Covid, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to severe COVID-19 and death, and why people with blood type O have lower COVID-19 risk.

For more information about Covid, please see recent studies about a big cause of severe COVID-19 and death, and results showing people over 50s may develop this disease after COVID-19.

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