Could these antiviral pills treat long COVID?

by Lisa M. Krieger

Credit score: Pixabay/CC0 Public Area

May Paxlovid resolve one of many pandemic’s largest puzzles? A brand new examine at Stanford College goals to seek out out.

Within the nation’s first medical trial of an antiviral technique to deal with lengthy COVID, scientists are testing the drug to see if it helps ease the distress of fatigue, mind fog, shortness of breath, physique aches, digestive signs and coronary heart issues.

“It is very important achieve additional understanding whether or not this could possibly be efficient remedy,” mentioned principal investigator Dr. Linda Geng, scientific assistant professor at Stanford Medication and co-director of Stanford’s Put up-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome Clinic.

At present, Paxlovid is barely given instantly after an infection, earlier than the virus beneficial properties a agency foothold within the physique. It’s confirmed to cut back the chance of lengthy COVID, hospitalization and demise.

It has not but been examined in these with persistent sickness, months or years after an infection. The Stanford examine is recruiting 200 individuals to be taught whether or not folks handled with a 15-day routine of Paxlovid really feel higher than these handled with a placebo. Each teams will probably be monitored over 4.5 months to see if signs enhance.

So far, no established therapies exist for lengthy COVID, which impacts hundreds of thousands of People.

However some long-haulers have famous that their sicknesses subsided after taking the drug for doable reinfection—inspiring the Stanford crew to take a better take a look at the therapy, which assaults the virus by inhibiting a key enzyme that it must make new particles.

Final spring, Geng and a crew of Stanford researchers reported {that a} 47-year-old girl’s long-COVID signs, resembling fatigue, cognitive issues and a racing heartbeat—vanished after she took Paxlovid. The affected person was in a position to return to work and rigorous train.

Scientists nonetheless do not know precisely what causes lengthy COVID. The seek for therapies has been stymied by the incapacity’s complexity. Signs could come and go, and so they range broadly.

“Once we go to physicians, they by no means know what to do with us. They at all times simply ship us to a different specialist, and undergo increasingly checks that by no means present that something is happening,” mentioned 25-year-old Ibrahim Rashid, who was contaminated two years in the past and is lastly regaining sufficient energy to run and do martial arts. “You spend a lot cash and emotional vitality getting shuffled by way of the medical system.”

One idea is that the incapacity is triggered by an overactive immune response to the virus, even after the virus is gone. One other is that the virus stubbornly persists within the physique.

The Stanford examine is testing the idea that, not less than in some instances, lengthy COVID is attributable to lingering virus—and an antiviral remedy might assist eradicate it.

Scientists have detected bits of viral genetic materials within the blood and feces of “lengthy haulers,” suggesting that virus stays hidden in varied tissues of the physique, mentioned Geng.

“Perhaps the COVID virus has by some means evaded our immune system, and that is the way it has remained someplace in our physique,” mentioned Geng. “However we do not know that. … We do not absolutely perceive the place these viral particles are coming from.”

Antiviral medication are profitable towards different infections, resembling flu, Ebola, HIV, hepatitis and herpes, she famous.

Information of the examine was welcomed by sufferers and advocacy teams.

“We’ve been clamoring for Paxlovid to be trialed, and it is about time,” mentioned Diana Berrent Güthe, the founding father of an extended COVID assist group known as Survivor Corps. “Beginning in winter 2021, we observed many lengthy COVID sufferers experiencing a level of symptom reduction after vaccination, indicating there was viral persistence.”

Tens of millions of People are combating persistent, disabling signs lengthy after their preliminary an infection, and the toll will proceed to climb with every extra wave.

With no therapy, sufferers strive something which may work, mentioned Rashid, whose months of sickness impressed him to construct an app, known as Sturdy Haulers, that helps folks with persistent diseases monitor their signs and different well being information.

“They resort to doing various therapies, altering their diets, yoga and meditation. … However some are nonetheless caught in mattress. Life-style modifications can take you solely thus far. There is no pharmacological approach to boring these signs,” he mentioned.

The Stanford trial represents just the start of what must be a broader seek for lengthy COVID therapies, mentioned Güthe.

“We won’t conduct this inquiry one therapeutic at a time. We want many trials, learning many autos of therapy, run concurrently,” she mentioned. “We are able to stroll and chew gum on the identical time whereas nonetheless staying true to the science.”

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May these antiviral drugs deal with lengthy COVID? (2022, November 25)
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