Could an experimental heart drug cure COVID-19?

on . Posted in Articles of Interest

MUNICH, Germany (PNN) - July 6, 2021 - An experimental drug may cure long COVID-19, medics believe after a 59-year-old man given the medicine saw his symptoms fade within hours.

Doctors at a hospital in Germany gave the drug - originally designed to fight heart failure - to treat the patient's glaucoma.

The team thought the way the medication works could also help to combat the eye disease, which can eventually lead to blindness.

They then realized the BC 007 drug could also be of use in fighting off long COVID-19  because it neutralizes auto-antibodies, which attack the body and are common in coronavirus survivors plagued with persistent symptoms.

The unidentified man's lasting symptoms - fatigue, loss of taste, and concentration problems - all improved rapidly.

Doctors in Bavaria who treated him said, “Even within a few hours an improvement became apparent.”

Scientists who made the discovery will now trial the drug to determine if its success at curing long COVID-19 symptoms can be repeated.

Little is known about long COVID-19 - an umbrella term encompassing symptoms that persist for more than a month.

Different studies have estimated that between 10% and 75% of COVID-19 patients suffer from the condition - including up to two million Britons.

Scientists have found that sufferers have higher numbers of auto-antibodies, which are proteins produced by the immune system that attack organs.

These are different from antibodies, which are stored by the immune system to fight off diseases.

German firm Berlin Cures developed BC 007 to clear up auto-antibodies in patients with heart failure.

The drug is currently in the second phase of clinical trials and has yet to be brought to market, so how much it will cost remains a mystery.

It works by sticking to the auto-antibodies and destroying them, preventing them from attacking organs in the body, according to Berlin Cures.

The doctors said this process would make it possible to render the auto-antibodies harmless and could possibly improve blood circulation.

For this reason, Dr. Bettina Hohberger, from the Erlangen Eye Clinic, planned to use BC 007 on her glaucoma patients, who also have high levels of auto-antibodies, which reduce blood flow in the eye.

Glaucoma is a condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged by a fluid build-up in the front part of the eye.

The condition, which is most common in people in their 70s and 80s, can lead to blindness if not treated early.

Dr. Hohberger said, “We already know one of these auto antibodies from glaucoma and know it has a bad effect on the blood circulation in the eye.”

Previous studies had already identified long COVID-19 sufferers have auto-antibodies in their systems.

Dr. Hohberger gave BC 007 to a 59-year-old man who was suffering with long-term glaucoma and long COVID-19 symptoms through a single dose infusion.

He stayed at the Erlangen University Hospital for three days.

The patient's sense of taste and difficulty concentrating disappeared, his auto-antibody levels dropped, and the blood flow to his eyes improved significantly, the doctors said.

The experts said they will now use the drug in wider trials to determine its effectiveness.

Dr. Christian Mardin, who is in charge of the eye clinic, revealed they can't treat more people with the drug “because it has not yet passed all approval studies”.

Blood flow problems are thought to be at the root of the long COVID-19 conundrum, with researchers at the Max Planck Center for Physics and Medicine in Germany identifying changes to the shape of blood cells in people who have the condition.

They released findings last week that claimed COVID-19 changes the size and stiffness of red and white blood cells, which makes it harder to get oxygen and nutrients around the body.

They believe the disruption to oxygen flow is the root of the common symptoms that plague long COVID-19 patients - breathing issues, tiredness and headaches.

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