A low-cost drug is safe and effective in limiting lung damage in Covid patients, a new study has found.
Research has shown that Heparin - a widely available and affordable drug - can be used safely to treat Covid, increasing treatment options for patients suffering from severe infections.
Researchers from the Australian National University and King's College London found that breathing and oxygen levels improved in 70 per cent of patients after inhaling a course of Heparin.
Heparin is unique in that it has antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant effects, which are considered relevant for the treatment of Covid.
Professor Frank van Haren, study leader in the results, said that Heparin could have a "big influence" in the fight against Covid.
"Most Covid experts agree that vaccination alone will not stop the pandemic. This could really help in poorer countries where vaccination is challenging, and we think it could help front-line workers who could use it as a preventative measure. , ”Said Professor van Haren.
He added: "Inhaled heparin is a promising new opportunity to provide a cheap, safe and effective treatment of Covid that is accessible and affordable for low- and middle-income countries across the globe."
The researchers are coordinating further studies that track hospital patients infected with Sars-CoV-2 in 13 countries that received doses of inhaled heparin.
Co-author Professor Clive Page, who co-led the study at King's College London, said: "Inhaled heparin has antiviral properties that work by binding to the peak proteins that coronavirus uses to penetrate the body's cells. Inhaled heparin stops effectively, the virus infects cells in the lungs and can also prevent people from getting the virus from others.
"It also acts as an anti-inflammatory drug - the drug has the ability to calm everything when the body reacts excessively to the virus. We already know that heparin can reduce lung damage caused by this inflammation and the excessive immune response that we see in other lung diseases, such as may benefit patients admitted to Covid. "
He added: "There is no other drug that has these three different effects - anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant."
Patients with severe Covid develop blood clots in the lungs, which can be fatal. Blood thinners, such as heparin, can prevent such blood clots from forming.
Because the drug has antiviral properties and calms the immune system, it can be used at different stages of treatment. In fact, treated patients included in the studies were not uniform in the severity of their Covid disease, suggesting that inhaled heparin is safe and effective to use across the spectrum of Covid disease.
Heparin may join a number of new treatments that will be used in the UK to treat the virus. Molnupiravir, a "game-changing" antiviral drug that significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death due to Covid, was approved for use by the UK Drug Regulator in November, while GSK's Xevudy (sotrovimab) was also approved in December.