A Guy’s hospital doctor was the leader of a new study that has changed the World Health Organisation’s approach to treating people who are seriously ill with Covid-19.
Professor Manu Shankar-Hari authored the study that showed that a drug that is used to calm overreactive immune systems is also very effective at treating critical coronavirus cases.
One of the most dangerous effects of Covid-19 is the inflammation the immune system causes throughout the body in serious cases. The study showed that a drug which blocks an immune molecule called interleukin-6 was effective in treating the disease, alongside corticosteroids. These have been used in severe Covid cases by the NHS since November last year.
The study covered 10,930 patients, of whom 6,449 randomly received the immune blockers. The other 4,481 received usual care or placebo.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has changed its recommendations for how to treat people with serious or critical Covid-19 cases based on Professor Shankar-Hari’s findings.
The critical care consultant said: “Covid-19 is a serious illness. Our research shows that interleukin-6 antagonists reduce deaths from Covid-19 and prevent progression to severe illness needing breathing support with a ventilator.
“Interleukin-6 antagonists appear even more effective when used alongside corticosteroids. Our research findings reflect the incredible research effort from scientists worldwide since the start of the pandemic. On a personal note, I am grateful to the patients and their families for their willingness to participate in research during these challenging times.”
Dr Janet Diaz, lead for clinical management, WHO Health Emergencies, said: “Bringing together the results of trials conducted around the world is one of the best ways to find treatments that will help more people survive Covid-19. We have updated our clinical care treatment guidance to reflect this latest development.
“While science has delivered, we must now turn our attention to access. Given the extent of global vaccine inequity, people in the lowest income countries will be the ones most at risk of severe and critical Covid-19. Those are the people these drugs need to reach.”