Researchers study drug to reduce COVID-19 complications

By: AFP      Published: 08:57 PM, 23 Mar, 2020
Researchers study drug to reduce COVID-19 complications

Canadian researchers launched a study Monday into the use of a powerful anti-inflammatory drug to reduce the risks of pulmonary complications and death related to the new coronavirus.

Several COVID-19 patients have had severe complications from a surge of activated immune cells in the lungs—known as a “cytokine storm.”

In a cytokine storm, the immune system overreacts and damages lung tissue, leading to acute respiratory distress and multi-organ failure.

A team led by Jean-Claude Tardif, director of the Montreal Heart Institute research center and professor of medicine at the University of Montreal are hoping the drug colchicine will work to moderate the overproduction of immune cells and their activating compounds—called cytokines—in COVID-19 patients.

If it proves to be successful, the drug—which is already used to treat gout and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart membrane), and is readily available and inexpensive—could become a key tool in the pandemic fight.

Tardiff told public broadcaster Radio-Canada that he hopes to know if it works within three months.

He said he became interested in its possible application as a COVID-19 fighter when it became clear that most children were resistant to the illness.

Children typically have reduced inflammatory responses to colds and flus, compared to adults.

In laboratory tests, animals whose inflammatory responses were blocked also lived longer when exposed to influenza.

One hundred and 25 people worked on the hypothesis and Health Canada approved the Quebec government-funded study within 24 hours.

According to a heart institute statement, the researchers are looking to recruit 6,000 Canadians with the coronavirus, for a clinical trial.

There were 1,430 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Canada as of 2200 GMT Sunday, including 20 deaths.