UK scientists trial drug that prevents infection that leads to COVID-19

Experts say it could save many lives.

Scientists in the United Kingdom are trialling a drug that could prevent people who’ve been exposed to coronavirus from going on to develop Covid-19, report the Guardian.

The drug could be given to people living in the same household as someone who has caught Covid, as well as university students, among whom the disease has spread rapidly due to the nature of halls of residence, where students live, socialist and study together.

The Guardian also report that the drug would be given to hospital inpatients as emergency treatment to help contain outbreaks.

Dr Catherine Houlihan, a virologist at University College London Hospitals NHS trust (UCLH) who is leading a study called Storm Chaser into the drug, said: “If we can prove that this treatment works and prevent people who are exposed to the virus going on to develop Covid-19, it would be an exciting addition to the arsenal of weapons being developed to fight this dreadful virus.”

UCLH and AstraZeneca are the brains behind the development of the drug. AstraZeneca have also created a vaccine which is expected to be approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency next week.

It is hoped that the drug would protect people from Covid-19 for between six and 12 months.

“To date we have injected 10 participants – staff, students and other people – who were exposed to the virus at home, in a healthcare setting or student halls,” said Houlihan.

This drug would not be an alternative for a vaccine but could significantly help in the fight to suppress the virus until enough people have been vaccinated.

“The advantage of this medicine is that it gives you immediate antibodies,” Houlihan said.

“We could say to trial participants who have been exposed: yes, you can have the vaccine. But we wouldn’t be telling them that would protect them from the disease, because it’s too late by then (because the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines do not confer full immunity for around a month).”