SAN ANTONIO – University Hospital and UT Health San Antonio are again on the cutting edge in the battle against COVID-19, announcing the start of the third phase of clinical trials involving the drug remdesivir.
This is the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial 3, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. This time, remdesivir will be paired with a drug called interferon beta-1a, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved for multiple sclerosis patients.
“It’s a long haul. It’s not as we thought that this was going to be a marathon. Now, we realize this is an ultra marathon,” said Dr. Thomas Patterson, the lead COVID-19 clinician for University Hospital.
This latest trial investigates the finding in other countries that showed a deficiency in the interferon beta-1a pathways in patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms. Patients who got an aerosol version tended to recover.
Interferon is known as a balancing agent for pro- and anti-inflammation factors in the brain. Interferon beta-1a is a humanmade protein, similar to the natural version that fights infections, especially viruses.
It’s hoped that by adding interferon, a patient will avoid the severe complications resulting from inflammation in the brain. Specifically, the drug is hoped to reduce the number of inflammatory cells that cross the blood brain barrier, potentially reducing nerve inflammation and increasing the production of nerve growth factors. It’s also thought to improve neuron survival.
“In other forms of the interferon, like the one we’re studying, it boosts the immune system so that it knocks the virus down more,” Patterson said.
Clearing the virus sooner means that a patient may avoid the complications that come with long term inflammation.
UT Health San Antonio and University Hospital are among the first test sites in the nation for this trial. Patterson says at the incredibly rapid rate the previous studies were completed, this phase three study should be finished in two months or so. Five patients have already enrolled in San Antonio, joining potentially a total of 1,000 volunteers nationwide.
Phase one showed that remdesivir was effective in shortening the amount of time a patient has to recover. Phase two looked at the rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib, but those results will not be available for about a month.