To combat SARS-CoV-2, Chinese researchers have announced promising results from a two-week triple antiviral therapy in combination with the standard treatment. However, this study did not include severe cases of the disease.
With many countries now ending their quarantines and the coronavirus far from being defeated, studies are still continuing worldwide to find an effective treatment for SARS-CoV-2. On Friday 8 May, researchers announced promising results from a two-week triple antiviral therapy (interferon beta-1b, lopinavir, ritonavir and ribavirin) in combination with standard treatment in a study published in The Lancet. However, these results do not include the severe cases of Covid-19, and larger Phase 3 trials are still required to ensure the efficacy of this triple combination in critically ill patients.
In 2003, during the SARS epidemic, previous research had already shown that a combination of oral lopinavir-ritonavir (originally used to treat HIV) and ribavirin (an oral drug for hepatitis C) was effective in reducing respiratory failure and patient mortality. Beta-1b interferon, which was developed for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), has subsequently been shown to be useful in reducing the viral load and improving lung problems in animal studies of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus infection in 2012.
The current study was conducted in Hong Kong, where anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 is hospitalized. The researchers tracked 127 patients with a mean age of 52 years with mild to moderate symptoms of Covid-19 in six public hospitals. They began treatment on average five days after the onset of clinical symptoms. The participants were randomly assigned to a triple combination of lopinavir, ritonavir, and ribavirin every 12 hours for 14 days. They also received up to three doses of interferon injection beta-1b on alternate days. The control group received lopinavir, ritonavir every 12 hours.