Immunity-boosting drugs may have huge implications in the pharmaceutical fight against COVID-19.
As MIT Technology Review reports, a number of immunity-boosting drugs are currently being studied to see whether they can help course-correct damage the coronavirus does to the immune system.
One of the most promising avenues of research comes from a class of pharmaceuticals known as statins, which are most commonly used to combat high cholesterol but have in recent years been studied for their off-label immunity-boosting properties — and, as it turns out, this fascinating benefit may help with COVID-19 treatment.
As University of Birmingham aging and immunity researcher Janet Lord tells MIT Tech, she and many in her cohort believe this class of drugs is actually better at improving immune systems than lowering cholesterol.
In 2018, Lord and her colleagues ran a small statin trial for older people, aged 68 to 90, who were hospitalized with pneumonia. They found that the patients who took a statin simvastatin were much less likely to die than the ones who took a placebo.
Researchers' more recent hope, as the report notes, is that statin regimens may similarly help older patients more likely to succumb to COVID combat acute infections — and Lord and her team aren't alone in investigating whether statins can help with COVID.
MIT Tech points to Wuhan University researcher Xiao-Jing Zhang, whose team compared the outcomes of patients who happened to be on cholesterol-lowering drugs when they were hospitalized with COVID to those who weren't. They found that those who were taking statins were much less likely to die from COVID than their counterparts who weren't on cholesterol meds.
Alongside studies around already-extant drugs are upstart labs looking into newer medications that might help older people cope with COVID infections, to varied results.
Perhaps the most promising of these pharma startups is Tornado Therapeutics, according to MIT Tech, which is working on treatments target the mTOR enzyme that regulates metabolism. Though their first study in 2014 looking into a drug to help older people have less severe responses to flu vaccines was promising, a follow-up trial, the report notes, yielded poor results.
During the COVID pandemic, according to the outlet's reporting, Tornado Therapeutics has been giving drugs similar to rapamycin, an immunosuppressive drug most often given to people to help them recover from kidney transplants, to nursing home patients during coronavirus outbreaks. Intriguingly, the patients taking the rapamycin clone developed no symptoms, while half of those taking the placebo died and an additional 25 percent of placebo subjects developed severe COVID.
There's obviously much more study needed to figure out whether so-called anti-aging drugs actually do help our immune systems — but when it comes to COVID, anything that sticks when thrown at the wall is a good thing.
READ MORE: Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid [MIT Technology Review]
And on completely non-effective COVID "treatments": Inmates Treated With Ivermectin Without Their Knowledge