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Scientists discover COVID-19 treatment lifeline

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THOSE who get most ill from COVID-19 could be offered a new lifeline with the first antiviral drug shown to save lives in patients admitted to hospital according to researchers.

  The Recovery trial showed the antibody combination developed by Regeneron minimised the risk of death when given to patients with severe COVID-19, who had not mounted a natural antibody response of their own.

  According to Wales Online report, the likelihood of patients needing to be put on a ventilator could also be reduced, as well as the duration of their hospital stay.

  From September 18, 2020 to May 22, this year, 9,785 UK patients admitted to hospital with the disease were randomly allocated to receive usual care plus the antibody combination treatment, or usual care alone.

  Around one third of those were seronegative which means they had no natural antibody response of their own, and half were seropositive, meaning they had already developed natural antibodies against the virus.

  For one sixth of those involved in the study, their serostatus was unknown.

  Researchers found that among patients who received usual care alone, 28-day mortality was twice as high in those without an antibody response (30%) compared with those who were seropositive (15 per cent) at the start of the study.

  The study says, “for patients who had no antibody response the treatment reduced the chance of them dying within 28 days by a fifth, compared with usual care alone.

  For every 100 such patients treated with the antibody combination, there would be six fewer deaths.”

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  Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, and joint Chief Investigator, Sir Martin Landray said, “What we found was amongst these patients who were seronegative is that they hadn’t raised antibodies of their own.

  “If you then gave them this combination of two antibodies in an intravenous infusion, then mortality was reduced by one fifth. So instead of 30 per cent dying, 24 per cent died. So if you think of it differently, for every 100 patients who were given the intravenous infusion, we would save six lives.”

  He added: “Take a group of people, they’re sick, they go into hospital, they’ve got COVID-19, they haven’t got antibodies of their own, (this) will reduce their chance of dying, shorten their hospital stay, and reduce the chances of needing a ventilator.

  “So this is in some ways a first. This is an antiviral treatment that is used later on because these patients are severe; they’ve gone into hospital and has a demonstrated clear impact on survival, and on those other outcomes.

  “So in its own right, it’s an important result because these patients are among the sickest patients, and here we now have a treatment we did not have before.”

  For the seronegative patients given the treatment, the duration of hospital stay was four days shorter than the usual care group, and the proportion of patients discharged alive by day 28 was greater (64 per cent vs 58 per cent).

  The treatment made no difference in patients who had mounted their own antibody response by the time the study started, researchers found.

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Professor of emerging infectious diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and joint chief investigator for the recovery trial, Sir Peter Horby said, “These results are very exciting.

  Horby added, “The hope was that by giving a combination of antibodies targeting the Sars-CoV-2 virus we would be able to reduce the worst manifestations of COVID-19.

  “There was, however, great uncertainty about the value of antiviral therapies in late-stage COVID-19 disease.

  “It is wonderful to learn that even in advanced COVID-19 disease, targeting the virus can reduce mortality in patients who have failed to mount an antibody response of their own.

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