Covid-19 treatment hope as heart failure drug will be trialled on 60 patients in the UK to try and stop blood clots and lung damage caused by the coronavirus
- Scientists say coronavirus and the drug use the same gateway into the body
- Seriously-ill Covid-19 patients thought to develop stickier blood prone to clots
- The drug can maintain balance of hormones in the blood to avoid clots
- British Heart Foundation is running the study with Imperial College London
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
A drug designed to stop blood clots could be a life-saving treatment for Covid-19, according to scientists who are now trialling it in the UK.
The British Heart Foundation has begun a study to test the effects of a medication called TRV027.
It has already worked for heart failure by keeping a healthy balance between two key hormones which regulate the thickness of someone’s blood.
If one of the hormones, known as angiotensin II, becomes too dominant the blood gets stickier and more likely to clot.
TRV027 can reverse this process and scientists believe the way it works could also limit the damage caused by Covid-19 because both the drug and the virus interact with the same part of the body.
Researchers said it is important to move away from thinking of the coronavirus as only a lung disease because it also affects the heart and blood vessels.
Doctors have found during the course of the pandemic that a lot of seriously-ill Covid-19 patients develop blood clots, which can damage their lungs and also trigger strokes or heart attacks.
One of the scientists leading the BHF’s study said trying to tackle the virus is a ‘huge challenge’ because so little is known about it.
Doctors have been testing various existing medications on Covid-19 patients but none are yet proven cures or treatments for the virus (Pictured: Medical staff at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey)
‘In order to fight it we need a team effort,’ said Dr David Owen, a pharmacologist at Imperial College London, who is part of the team in charge of the trial.
‘This project has brought together pathologists, virologists, pharmacologists and researchers who usually focus on heart and circulatory diseases.
‘Drawing on this range of expertise will give us the best chance of finding a desperately needed treatment for Covid-19.’
THIRD OF HOSPITALISED COVID-19 PATIENTS DEVELOP CLOTS
As many as 30 per cent of people in hospital with the coronavirus develop blood clots, according to doctors.
Experts say they have seen rising numbers of people with tiny clots in their lungs as well as larger ones in the veins as hospitals have filled up with Covid-19 patients.
Clots are dangerous because they can damage the tissue around them and also break off, travelling to the brain or heart to trigger a stroke or heart attack.
Professor Roopen Arya, from King’s College London, said in May: ‘I think it has become apparent that thrombosis is a major problem,’ the BBC reported.
‘Particularly in severely affected Covid patients in critical care, where some of the more recent studies show that nearly half the patients have pulmonary embolism or blood clot on the lungs.’
Professor Arya said he thinks rates of blood clots among people who are severely ill with Covid-19 could be 30 per cent or higher.
The reason patients are developing clots is because the virus makes their blood stickier, he observed, by triggering the release of certain hormones in the lungs.
Professor Arya added: ‘In severely affected patients we are seeing an outpouring of chemicals in the blood and this has a knock-on effect of activating the blood clotting.’
Blood thinners, which are usually used to prevent or shrink clots, are dangerous in high doses because they can lead to uncontrollable bleeding in the event of an injury.
Larger numbers of clots is likely increasing the virus’s death rates, Professor Arya said.
Among the drugs already tried as treatments for critically-ill coronavirus patients include ones invented for Ebola, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and anti-malarials.
Although some have shown promise, none have been proven to be a silver bullet.
Remdesivir, a virus-destroying medication made to tackle Ebola, has been approved for use on the NHS but studies are still not conclusive.
TRV027, the British Heart Foundation says, could work by maintaining a healthy balance of hormones that regulate the thickness and pressure of someone’s blood.
This is usually done by a body part called an ACE-2 receptor, which is a tiny protein that the coronavirus latches on to in order to infect the body.
The fact that both the drug and the virus interact with the same receptor has given scientists hope that the treatment could work.
It functions by maintaining a healthy balance between the two hormones angiotensin II and angiotensin 1-7.
In seriously-ill coronavirus patients the balance seems to tip towards higher amounts of angiotensin II, which makes the blood sticky and more likely to clot in the lungs and in other parts of the body.
Researchers have found during the pandemic that almost a third of Covid-19 patients develop blood cloots, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
A King’s College researcher, Professor Roopen Arya, said in May that around 30 per cent of patients are thought to develop clots.
The BHF study hopes to reveal whether the clot-preventing drug TRV027 can stop this from happening.
It will give the drug to 60 hospital patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 and track them for eight days to see how their condition progresses.
If the findings are positive the researchers intend to do a larger clinical trial in the near future.
Dr Kat Pollock, an honorary consultant at Imperial College London, who is jointly leading the study said: ‘We need to move away from thinking of Covid-19 as solely a respiratory illness.
‘It also has devastating effects on the rest of the body including the blood vessels and heart.
‘When this infection was first described, we were surprised to learn that people with heart and circulatory diseases appeared to be at risk.
‘Our study will play an important role in understanding the mechanisms which make Covid-19 dangerous and offers a potential treatment.’