Hope for long breakthrough in COVID treatment after ‘really positive’ study results

Emerging data suggests the virus targets mitochondria – the ‘energy generators’ inside our cells. Scientists say the experimental drug appears to improve overall power output and a treatment for fatigue “could be in sight”.

By Thomas Moore, Science Correspondent @SkyNewsThomas

Friday, April 14, 2023 11:26 a.m., United Kingdom

An experimental drug could significantly reduce fatigue in people with long COVID, a new study suggests.

Scientists who conducted the small-scale clinical trial believe the drug, called AXA1125, can increase energy production in cells and reduce inflammation in people fighting the virus and its aftereffects.

They call for larger studies to confirm the results.

While most people who catch COVID-19 usually only experience symptoms for the short term – the NHS says most people recover fully within 12 weeks – for others some symptoms persist for a long time. period. This is known as long COVID.

As a new condition, the long COVID is still not fully understood.

The COVID-19 virus is thought to attack mitochondria – the organelles in our cells responsible for giving us energy – often leading to major fatigue

The researchers behind the new study, from the University of Oxford, gave either the drug AXA1125 or a dummy placebo treatment to 41 patients twice a day for four weeks.

The early-stage Phase 2 study was ‘double-blind’ – so neither the scientists nor the patients knew what they had been given until the research was completed.

His results, published in Lancet eClinical Medicine, showed that those who received the experimental drug reported significantly improved levels of fatigue.

They were also able to walk further than those given the placebo and scans showed that their mitochondria, the ‘energy generators’ inside cells, were more likely to be healthier – although that’s not was not considered statistically significant.

Associate Professor Betty Raman, lead researcher on the study, said: “The reduction in patient reports of fatigue is really positive news, and we hope that further work will also help us understand the processes underlying this. improvement.

“There is still a long way to go to treat all patients with long COVID.

“Our findings focus specifically on fatigue, rather than the shortness of breath and cardiovascular issues reported by other long-term COVID patients.”

Learn more:
How long COVID ruined my life, from overwhelming fatigue to brain fog
Most patients with long-term COVID have organ damage a year later, study finds

According to the researchers, emerging data suggests that the COVID virus targets mitochondria.

But the combination of five amino acids and one amino acid derivative contained in AXA1125 appears to improve potency output through multiple biological pathways.

The trial, which was funded by the drug’s maker, Axcella, only looked at patients with clear signs of impaired mitochondrial function.

The effect of the drug on other symptoms of long COVID has not yet been studied.

Margaret Koziel MD, the company’s chief medical officer, said: “We are encouraged by these results and hope that a treatment for people with long fatigue due to COVID will be in sight.

“We are motivated to advance AXA1125 so that it is available to the millions of patients currently without treatment options.”

Nurses monitor patients on a COVID-19 ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital

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At the end of last year, more than 500 million cases of COVID-19 were reported worldwide.

According to the University of Oxford, up to 10% of people who have caught the virus are thought to suffer from long COVID.

Fatigue is one of the main symptoms experienced by patients and there is no approved treatment for this disease.

This study may change that if other researchers can replicate the results.

Eventually, sufferers could treat their symptoms with a drug like AXA1125.

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