The University of Southampton in the UK has published the results from a clinical trial of an inhaled form of interferon beta-1a, SNG001, which reduced chances of hospitalised Covid-19 patients developing severe disease or death due to infection.

The naturally occurring protein, interferon beta, coordinates the immune response of the body to viral infections.

Studies in the laboratories have shown that the SARS CoV-2 virus directly suppresses the release of interferon beta.

Decreased activity of the protein was also observed in Covid-19 patients during clinical trials.

The trial enrolled 101 hospitalised Covid-19 patients who were randomly given Synairgen’s SNG001 or placebo.

Results showed that patients who received SNG001 were twice as likely to show an improvement in their clinical condition at day 15 or 16 as compared with the placebo arm.

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In the placebo group, 11 out of 50 patients developed severe disease needing mechanical ventilation or died between the first dose and day 15 or 16.

All patients in the SNG001 group survived while three deaths were recorded in the placebo group.

While in the treatment arm, six out of 48 patients who received SNG001 developed severe disease.

University of Southampton Respiratory Medicine professor and lead author Tom Wilkinson said: “The results confirm our belief that interferon beta, a widely known drug approved for use in its injectable form for other indications, may have the potential as an inhaled drug to restore the lung’s immune response and accelerate recovery from Covid-19.

“This pH neutral, inhaled interferon beta-1a formulation (SNG001) provides high, local concentrations of the immune protein which boosts lung defences rather than targeting specific viral mechanisms.”

The inhaled form can also potentially aid in treating Covid-19 when it occurs alongside infection by another respiratory virus such as influenza or Respiratory Syncytial Virus in the winter.

Positive topline results from the trial, which were originally announced in July, have now been peer-reviewed.