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Interferon doesn’t improve outcomes for hospitalised adults with COVID-19: Study

File Photo: NIH

Maryland (US), Oct 19 (MNN) A clinical trial has found that treatment with the immunomodulator interferon beta-1a plus the antiviral remdesivir was not superior to treatment with remdesivir alone in hospitalised adults with COVID-19 pneumonia, the NIH reported on Tuesday.

In addition, in a subgroup of patients who required high-flow oxygen, investigators found that interferon beta-1a was associated with more adverse events and worse outcomes. These findings were published on Tuesday in journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The study, called the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial 3 (ACTT-3), took place from August 5, 2020 to December 21, 2020. It was sponsored and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Interferon beta-1a has the same amino acid sequence as a naturally occurring protein called interferon beta, which is in a class of proteins called type 1 interferons.

Infected cells normally produce type 1 interferons to help the immune system fight pathogens, especially viruses. Interferon beta has both antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Laboratory studies have shown that the normal type 1 interferon response is suppressed after infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

In addition, previous studies of hospitalised patients with COVID-19 demonstrated reduced production of interferon in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection in many patients, and this was associated with more severe disease. Other laboratory studies and clinical data supported the hypothesis that treatment with interferon beta-1a might improve health outcomes in people with COVID-19.

Ultimately, however, the ACTT-3 investigators found that interferon beta-1a plus remdesivir was not associated with a clinical benefit compared to remdesivir alone in hospitalised adults with COVID-19.

The primary outcome, time to recovery, was the same — a median of 5 days — for participants receiving interferon beta-1a plus remdesivir as for those receiving remdesivir alone.

The likelihood of clinical improvement at day 15 also was similar for participants in the two treatment groups.

Remdesivir was used as an active control in this study because the first iteration of the ACTT trials found that the antiviral was superior to placebo in shortening the time to recovery in adults hospitalized with COVID-19.

The ACTT-3 study team enrolled 969 adults at 63 sites in the United States, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea. Sixty per cent of the patients were white, 17 per cent Black, 9 per cent Asian, 1 per cent American Indian or Alaskan Native, and 32 per cent Hispanic or Latino.

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