Covid-19 patients with sepsis one step closer to life-saving treatment

A clinical trial has begun using a human protein called Annexin A5, which is being studied as a potential therapy for Covid-19 patients with sepsis. Annexin A5 is a protein produced inside the human body with unique anti-coagulation (preventing blood clots) and anti-inflammatory properties that could help in the fight against sepsis.

Sepsis is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection turns into an overwhelming inflammatory response. The inflammatory response can cause damage to organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, and even the brain. Unfortunately, most critically ill Covid-19 patients develop sepsis. “With Covid initially, it is in the airway and then in the lungs, then from there the inflammatory response in fact spreads to the whole body,” said Dr. Qingping Feng, Lawson Scientist and Ivey Chair in Molecular Toxicology at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “Sepsis causes major organ dysfunction and carries a high mortality unfortunately.”

“For patients with severe Covid-19 disease, what we see is major respiratory failure in the lungs as the primary site in the body,” said Dr. Claudio Martin Associate Scientist at Lawson and Intensive Care Physician at LHSC. “When the pandemic started, there was no proven treatment for sepsis, including sepsis as a result of Covid-19. Based on clinical trials during the pandemic, we now use steroids and other treatments to try to help, but the results and effects aren’t dramatic and we see patients who have these treatments and still progress and end up in the ICU.”

However, Dr. Feng and his team have found in a pre-clinical study that annexin A5 can inhibit inflammation and improve organ function and survival when treating sepsis in animal models.  This discovery was made right here in London and now the research team has launched a clinical trial with critically ill Covid-19 patients, using a manufactured form of annexin A5.

Enrolment has begun with the goal to enrol a total of 60 patients for the clinical trial. If it shows promising results the team plans on expanding into a larger Phase III trial with not just Covid-19 patients with sepsis, but other sepsis patients as well.

Image credit: Olga Kononenko

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