Breakthrough in COVID-19 fight; Healthcare professionals welcome UK company develops protein-based treatment


By Dr Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui

A United Kingdom (UK) based biotech company, Synairgen has declared positive “breakthrough” results from a clinical trial of a protein-based treatment for COVID-19, which ‘greatly’ reduced patients requiring intensive care.

Synairgen said its SNG001 formulation uses a protein called interferon beta, which the body produces when it gets a viral infection.

It is inhaled directly into the lungs of patients with coronavirus, using a nebuliser, which will stimulate an immune response.

According to Richard Marsden, CEO of Synairgen, “this assessment of SNG001 in COVID-19 patients could signal a major breakthrough in the treatment of hospitalised COVID-19 patients.”

“This respiratory drug discovery and development company originated from research at the University of Southampton.

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“We are all delighted with the trial results announced, which showed that SNG001 greatly reduced the number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients who progressed from requiring oxygen to requiring ventilation.

“The drug also showed that patients who received SNG001 were at least twice as likely to recover to the point where their everyday activities were not compromised through having been infected by SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19),” Marsden added.

The SNG001 significantly reduces breathlessness, one of the main symptoms of severe COVID-19.

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The company Synairgen said that it is now focused on working with the regulators and other key groups to progress the potential COVID-19 treatment as quickly as possible.

It is claimed that the trials showed that the average time coronavirus patients spent in hospital was reduced by a third, for those receiving the new drug down from an average of nine days to six days.

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The double-blind trial involved a total of 101 volunteers. They were admitted for treatment at nine UK hospitals for COVID-19 infections.

Half of the participants were given the drug SNG001, the other half were given placebo — an inactive substance. The results, published by the Synairgen company, under its stock market obligations, have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal as yet.

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“The results confirm our belief that interferon beta, a widely known drug that, by injection, has been approved for use in a number of other indications, has huge potential as an inhaled drug to be able to restore the lungs’ immune response, enhancing protection, accelerating recovery and countering the impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus,” declared Professor Tom Wilkinson, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton and Trial Chief Investigator.

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The COVID-19 treatment with the protein interferon beta from Synairgen has found support and appreciation from different quarters.

Speaking to Maravi Express, Dr. Syed Mohammed Mohiuddin Moiz, eminent Indian physician in Saudi Arabia, concurs that SNG001 may be a possible treatment for COVID-19.

Dr. Moiz added that it is possible that plasma therapy, interferons, anti-viral drugs, tnf inhibitors have all been used successfully. He believes that there will be an end to the sufferings of mankind soon as Covid-19 will be defeated once and for all.

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Professor Stephen Holgate, Medical Research Council Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton and Co-Founder of Synairgen, opines that recognising that SARS-CoV-2 is known to have evolved to evade the initial antiviral response of the lung, our inhaled treatment of giving high local concentrations of interferon beta, a naturally occurring antiviral protein, restores the lung’s ability to neutralise the virus, or any mutation of the virus or co-infection with another respiratory virus such as influenza.

It could be encountered in the winter, if there is a resurgence of COVID-19.

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It is significant to note that Synairgen’s drug trial was the template for the Accord programme, a fast-track clinical trial scheme set up by the UK government in April to accelerate the development of new drugs for patients with COVID-19.

The team at Synairgen believes the SNG001 drug could be even more effective at the early stages of Covid-19 infection.

Malawi continues to register more COVID-19 cases and as of Monday, July 27, four people are reported to have succumbed to the pandemic after recording 45 new cases.

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The total number of deaths since April is now at 103 with just the past week alone registering 26.

As of Tuesday last week, there were 104 new cases with seven deaths, on Thursday there were 84 new with three deaths, Saturday there were 103 new with seven deaths while Sunday recorded 107 new with five deaths.

A situation report presented by co-chairperson of Presidential Taskforce Force on COVID-19, Dr. John Phuka says two of the new deaths occurred in Lilongwe and one each in Mzimba South and Karonga.

Dr. John Phuka (left) reasserts that the pandemic
is real

The new recoveries are at 22, bringing the total number of recoveries to 1,667 while total number of active cases is 1,939.

The report says all the 45 new cases are locally transmitted infections and that healthcare workers continue to be vulnerable as from the locally transmitted infections, five are frontline workers (two each from Blantyre and Nkhata Bay and one from Salima.

Saturday’s update had four frontline health care workers and Sunday there were five.

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Of the 45 new locally transmitted infections, 12 are from Lilongwe, five from Blantyre, 8 from Neno, sic each from Mzimba North and Salima, two from Nkhata Bay and one from Rumphi.

The update adds that cumulatively Malawi has recorded 3,709 cases including 103 deaths and of these 946 are imported infections and 2,763 being local transmissions.

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The average age of the cases is 36 years, the youngest being aged 1 month, the oldest is 93 years old while men top the list at 66%.

The country has so far conducted 27,147 COVID-19 tests in 39 testing sites.

“Today is another sad day for our country where the number of people that have died due to COVID-19 has passed 100,” said Dr. Phuka in his report.

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“It is time for self-reflection as a country as we are losing a lot of lives due to the pandemic and a lot more are being infected.

“Our lives have been disrupted greatly due to this disease. This is the time for us to seriously consider to re-strategize our day to day lives and only make decisions that help to reduce the spread of the virus in our midst.

“We all need to treat everyone that you meet as a potential carrier of the virus and we need to strictly follow all preventive measures wholesomely.”

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He reminded the public for severe COVID-19 case to:

*Get screened for chronic conditions — this means getting checked if one has diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, TB and HIV;

*Ensure the chronic condition one lives with is under control — ensuring they are regularly taking medication for diabetes, hypertension, TB and HIV.

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For general preventive measures:

*Frequent handwashing with soap of disinfection with alcohol-based hand sanitizer;

*Respiratory hygiene such as covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing;

*Avoiding over crowded places;

*Physical distancing of at least 1 meter;

*Proper wearing of masks and avoidance of sharing of used masks;

*Regular environmental cleaning and disinfection;

*Limiting unnecessary travel;

*Staying at home and contact medical personnel on 54747 if experiencing flu, cough and/or fever;

*Strictly adhering to self-isolation and self-quarantine protocols for those confirmed positive and exposed respectively.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira