A NEW pill could “kill” coronavirus if taken within four days of a positive test, scientists hope.
Antiviral tablet Favipiravir is already used in Japan for flu, and is made by Fujifilm Toyama Chemicals.
It is now being trialled for use in Covid patients with milder symptoms by scientists in Glasgow who hope it could stop them developing serious ones.
It has to be taken within four days of a positive test and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the University of Glasgow are urging people who have been diagnosed with the infection to take part in a new study.
The tablet can be taken at home, twice a day, and is intended for people with milder symptoms than those requiring hospital admission.
The study, Glasgow Early Treatment Arm Favipiravir (Getafix), will assess the effectiveness of the drug to
help with symptoms and reduce the time it takes to recover from Covid-19.
Three NHSGGC hospitals are taking part – the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley – and include an outpatient facility for patients treated in the community.
Half the patients involved will receive the drug twice a day for 10 days alongside standard treatment, with the other half receiving standard treatment for comparison.
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The study is organised by Glasgow University and supported by the Glasgow Clinical Research Facility, and is funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government.
Professor Rob Jones, director of the CRUK Clinical Trials Unit, said: “If you have recently been diagnosed with Covid-19 and would like to contribute to groundbreaking research, please get in touch.
“We are looking for people who have just recently been diagnosed with Covid-19 – within four days of a positive Covid-19 test result.
“We are looking to see whether this antiviral treatment will help kill off the virus and prevent more serious complications.”
Dr Janet Scott, of the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, said:“This drug is active against many viruses. It is used already for influenza in Japan.
“We are able to offer the trial, not just to patients in hospital but also for home use.
“Our hope is that it will stop mild symptoms developing into serious ones.”
Meanwhile, researchers in the UK have been granted permission to infect dozens healthy, young volunteers with Covid in order to test vaccines and treatments in the world’s first coronavirus “human challenge” study.
The goal is to evaluate key mysteries surrounding the virus – such as the smallest amount of coronavirus needed to cause infection, or predicting who will develop symptoms – in a controlled environment where participants can be monitored by medics.
The study is recruiting about 90 people aged 18-30, who will be paid £4,500 each. It will begin within weeks.
Participants will be infected with the virus nasally, then quarantined in hospital while researchers analyse how the virus grows in the nose and how the infection evolves in the body before symptoms emerge.
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It could also see a small number of volunteers vaccinated and then exposed to new variants of the virus to test which vaccines are most effective.
The Human Challenge study is being delivered jointly by the UK Government’s Vaccines Taskforce, Imperial College London, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, and the company hVIVO, which has pioneered viral human challenge models.
Clive Dix, interim chair of the Vaccines Taskforce, said: “We expect these studies to offer unique insights into how the virus works and help us understand which promising vaccines offer the best chance of preventing the infection.”
It comes as a separate study published today shows that half of recovered patients admitted to hospital with severe Covid disease have damage to their hearts, including scarring, inflammation or restricted blood supply.
The injury was detected by MRI scans at least a month after discharge, according to findings published in the European Heart Journal.
All 148 patients in the study, carried out in six London hospitals, had elevated troponin levels while infected – a protein released when the heart muscle is injured.
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Professor Marianna Fontana, professor of cardiology at University College London who co-led the study, said: “We found evidence of high rates of heart muscle injury that could be seen on the scans a month or two after discharge.
“While some of this may have been pre-existing, MRI scanning shows that some were new, and likely caused by Covid-19.”
In the most severe cases, Ms Fontana said there “are concerns that this injury may increase the risks of heart failure in the future, but more work is needed to investigate this further”.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, consultant cardiologist and associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, stressed that the findings apply to the hearts of people who had been severely ill and are “not applicable to people who’ve had mild or asymptomatic” infections.
“Some people in the study may have had heart damage they did not know about before they caught the virus,” she said, adding that more research is need into the long-term effects of severe Covid illness.