CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - As the world waits for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, new ways of fighting the virus are quickly coming into focus.
Dr. Patrick Jackson is an infectious diseases physician at UVA Health in Charlottesville. He’s working to better understand different treatments for COVID-19 patients.
“A lot of science has been done and a lot of people around the world have been working very hard to develop new treatments for COVID-19 and learn as much about this as we possibly can,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s team and he are working on a clinical trial involving remdesivir, which late last week, became the first FDA-approved drug to treat COVID-19. Up until then, doctors had been using remdesivir experimentally.
The FDA gold seal of approval means remdesivir is effective in shortening recovery time.
“It is a useful treatment that decreases a person’s time to recovery but it’s not a homerun. It’s not a cure for COVID-19,” said Jackson. “It may not have any effect on people’s risk of dying from the disease, so even though I think it has real benefits for patients it again, is not the solution to this pandemic by itself.”
While not a solution, Jackson’s study might prove more beneficial for COVID-19 patients.
By combining remdesivir and another drug, interferon he’s hoping to see if the recovery time for patients is even shorter than using remdesivir alone.
“Interferon is also FDA approved and it’s used for diseases like multiple sclerosis,” Jackson said. “The idea is to see whether these two FDA-approved drugs in combination might help people to fight off the virus earlier.”
Interferon beta has both antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
“Interferon is a natural chemical that’s made by the body that helps you to fight off a number of viral infections,” said Jackson. “We know that the virus that causes COVID-19 suppresses the interferon response and helps to prevent the body from mounting that natural immunity. So, the idea is that by giving an antiviral drug remdesivir in combination with interferon, a natural antiviral chemical is that we may be able to boost peoples responses and may be able to get even more benefit than we got out of remdesivir by itself.”
The clinical trial is in phase three. Jackson is in the process of recruiting COVID-positive, hospitalized patients from all over the globe to take part in the trial.
Results from the study should be out early next year.