In a recent study published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, a clinical study led by the University of Virginia (UVA) Health System found that the drug, dupilumab, was successful in increasing Covid-19 survival rates in a 60-day randomized trial involving 40 ventilator-free patients. What’s remarkable about this study is dupilumab was initially designed to treat eczema and asthma, and 90% of the patients receiving dupilumab survived after 60-day trial.
"Our clinical trial suggests that treatment with the anti-allergy medicine dupilumab may decrease deaths due to COVID-19. UVA is the first to test this novel and promising approach to COVID-19 treatment, which also proved safe in this small study -- as we had expected, as dupilumab has proven safe and effective as an allergy medicine," said Jennifer Sasson, MD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine's Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, and lead author of the study. "A large multi-institution study to validate these preliminary results is being designed. If successful, this multi-site trial will open a new window to treatment of COVID-19 and potentially other viral pneumonias."
Sasson and her colleagues gained inspiration to conduct the trial after discovering that Covid-19 patients were at a much greater risk of requiring a ventilator if their blood contained high levels of interleukin-13 (IL-13), which is a driver of inflammation within the body. Dupilumab functions by blocking the inflammatory effects of IL-13.
The study was conducted by administering either dupilumab or a placebo to 40 patients exhibiting moderate to severe Covid-19 symptoms in a double-blinded trial, meaning both the doctors and patients were unaware who was receiving either dose. While both groups saw no change in survival rates after 28 days, by day 60 there were two deaths among the patients who received dupilumab while there were five deaths for the placebo patients.
While dupilumab should not be considered a “magic bullet” in the fight against Covid-19, the UVA researchers noted that this treatment could be useful for appropriate patients and are encouraging larger trials to better understand the possible benefits of this treatment.
"We are indebted to the patients at UVA who consented to participate in this study, without even knowing if they would receive the medicine or placebo, as they are the ones who have advanced our understanding of the pandemic," Sasson said.