31 Jul 2020

Antiviral study for COVID-19 patients seeking participants

Dr James McMahon is leading a study to find out whether an
antiviral called favipiravir will help people with COVID-19
clear the virus from their systems faster. Video explainer
Researchers from The Alfred and Monash University have set out to determine whether an antiviral medication that has been previously studied in people with influenza and other viral infections will help people with COVID-19 recover faster.

Lead researcher and Infectious Diseases specialist Dr James McMahon said the antiviral, Favipiravir, is being studied in multiple countries including the United States and Japan, where it was first developed to treat people with influenza. It is being studied in a number of trials globally to see if it could help clear the COVID-19 virus faster.

"We think this could work for COVID-19," Dr McMahon said. There were two smaller trials in China which showed that Favipiravir cleared the virus more quickly and people with less severe infection recovered more quickly.

"These studies were in a small number of people, so it needs to be studied further in a placebo controlled study. This means half the people get the drug and half get a sugar pill or placebo so it is a rigorous way of working out whether this drug helps people clear the virus and recover more quickly."

The VIRCO trial, which began this week, is currently enrolling symptomatic people with COVID-19 in the first 5 days of their illness to take part.

Eligible people with COVID can participate in this trial in the hospital or at home. They will be required to take an oral medication twice a day for 14 days and do a swab of the back of their throat every two days.

"Importantly, Favipiravir has also been given to thousands of people safely in trials studying other viral infections before COVID-19," Dr McMahon said.

"This is why we think it is an excellent candidate to study not only for people in hospitals but also people in their homes with COVID-19.

"The study staff will monitor people while they are on the trial which involves taking the tablets for the first 2 weeks and then another 2 weeks where we will monitor participants for any symptoms that may be present.

"We are very grateful for the support of Commonwealth Bank Australia for the seed funding for this trial.  Ultimately, the results will benefit the whole community in providing additional tools to fight the pandemic." 

To take part or find out more, see:

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