A UK-based study will investigate whether a common anti-viral medication could double up as a treatment for long Covid.
The project involves teams from the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Exeter, in collaboration with Gilead Sciences.
Globally, estimates suggest that over 144 million people developed long Covid, with 22 million experiencing persistent symptoms at 12 months after the onset of their infection.
The cause of long Covid is not yet clear; however, a widely recognised theory is that the virus persists within specific cells of the infected person, causing an associated inflammatory response, and a wide range of prolonged symptoms.
Study lead, Dr Mark Faghy, Associate Professor in Respiratory Physiology at the University of Derby, explained: “This project will shed light on whether using existing antiviral treatment could help address this global challenge. Millions have been affected by this terrible condition which makes research like this critically important as we seek to find new ways to improve care.”
Long Covid and inflammation
Dr Faghy’s team have previously conducted a series of international studies to explore the impacts of acute and long Covid, and their findings have informed the design of services for patients.
The first phase of research will begin in January 2024 and will look at a series of measures, including exercise tolerability.
Professor David Strain, the clinical lead based at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “Inflammation in the body and brain are closely associated with symptoms of long Covid. If treatment demonstrates improvements in these measures, this could lead to improved symptoms for people with long Covid. If this study is successful, we hope to progress to a larger study targeting improving symptoms in 2024.”
Read an interview with Bill Hinshaw, President & CEO of Axcella Therapeutics, about the quest for long Covid treatments.