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Public university research finds drug that could combat Covid-19’s severe form

Publicado em 22 junho 2020

Researchers at a Brazilian public university – USP in Ribeirão Preto – plan to soon test a drug, already used against cystic fibrosis, in patients with Sars-Cov2 (also known as Covid-19 or new coronavirus).

According to Fernando de Queiroz Cunha, coordinator of CRID – a Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center (CEPID) of the Ribeirão Preto Medical School (FMRP-USP), the drug has shown promise in tests in vitro, made with the blood plasma of patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19.

The drug, whose active ingredient is an enzyme called DNase, has been shown to deactivate this immune mechanism that can cause damage to vital organs, reports a report by Karina Toledo, from Agência Fapesp.

According to the researcher, the goal now is to start a clinical trial. The idea of using the drug arose because patients with the severe form of Sars-Cov2 develop an uncontrolled and harmful inflammatory response to the organism very similar to that seen in cases of sepsis. And experiments carried out at the Inflammatory Diseases Research Center (CRID) at the University of São Paulo (USP) prove that, in these two diseases, the same immune mechanism is involved.

According to the report, although it is known as a generalized infection, sepsis is actually a systemic inflammation usually triggered by a bacterial infection that has gone out of control. In an attempt to fight pathogens, the immune system ends up harming the organism itself. In the most severe forms, patients develop lesions that compromise the functioning of vital organs.

Cunha recalls that because it is a viral infection, the initial process of Covid-19 is different. But, after a certain moment, the picture becomes very similar to that of sepsis. “The inflammatory mediators are the same and we see that, in both cases, there is participation of NETs [armadilhas extracelulares neutrofílicas, na sigla em inglês]”, Says Cunha.

The in vitro study, which involved the participation of several researchers, was reported in article released on the platform medRxiv, still without peer review. However, the discovery paves the way for new therapeutic approaches. And that’s what the researchers intend to do now by testing this drug.

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