COVID SCIENCE-RedHill Pill Shows Promise vs. Omicron; mRNA vaccines appear to be effective in those with well-controlled HIV

Written by Nancy Lapid

April 11 (Reuters) – Here is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that requires further study to confirm results and that has not yet been approved by peer review.

Promising experimental pill against Omicron

An experimental drug developed by RedHill Biopharma Ltd. improved results in a randomized trial involving severely ill COVID-19 patients with previous versions of the coronavirus, researchers said, and it is promising against the Omicron variant in test tube trials.

Oral obaganib has dual anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects. When obaganib was added to treatment with remdesivir and Gilead Sciences’ corticosteroids in infected inpatients before Omicron was dominant, it improved the mean time until patients had no detectable virus in their blood for four days, speeding up 34% cure, and 70% lower death rate, compared to a placebo, according to data previously released by the company but not yet officially released. The company announced Monday Vitro/default.aspx showed that in laboratory experiments, opaganib prevented Omicron virus particles from reproducing.

The company said that Opaganib’s antiviral/anti-inflammatory mechanism “is expected to act independently of viral spiny protein mutations and remain effective against Omicron sub-variants BA.2, XE and other emerging and future variants.”

Controlled HIV does not impair response to mRNA vaccine

People with well-controlled HIV infection are more likely to have immune responses to the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Moderna and from Pfizer/BioNTech similar to those of healthy individuals, according to new data.

Researchers studied vaccine responses in 166 people with HIV who were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) one month after their second vaccine. They also studied responses in 169 healthy individuals. Initially, 32 patients had a CD4 T-cell count below 200 – a low level of these immune cells that is associated with poorly controlled HIV and a high risk of developing serious illness – 56 patients had CD4 counts of 200-500 , and 78 of them had CD4 counts greater than 500, indicating well-controlled HIV. After accounting for patients’ other risk factors, the poorly controlled HIV-infected group had only low levels of COVID antibodies and other markers of immune response after vaccination, researchers at Clinical Infectious Diseases report cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciac238/6562777. Compared with healthy volunteers, participants with well-controlled HIV had a somewhat poor response to antibodies to the vaccines, but there was no difference in immune responses between Healthy volunteers and patients with well-controlled HIV.

The authors conclude that the findings suggest that mRNA vaccines can elicit a robust immune response against SARS-CoV-2 in most HIV-infected people receiving antiretroviral therapy. They said patients with CD4 counts less than 200 should receive a booster dose. Enhancers can also be “reasonably delivered” when the CD4 count is between 200 and 500, the researchers said, given that these patients’ responses were weaker than those of the healthy comparison group.

Antibiotics and steroids often used incorrectly for COVID-19

Two studies published Friday in JAMA show that large numbers of US patients with COVID-19 who were not sick enough to be hospitalized were inappropriately prescribed antibiotics or steroids in 2020 and 2021.

One study found that between April 2020 and April 2021, antibiotic prescriptions were written during 30% of COVID-19 outpatient visits among Medicare recipients, although That antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. A separate study notes that while stimulants are known to benefit critically ill patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises against their use in patients Those with mild to moderate illness from the coronavirus. However, researchers found, between April 2020 and August 2021, stimulants – which can lead to a range of harmful side effects – were prescribed to 16.4% of 576,885 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the Medicare database and 9.4% of 766,105 of those patients in a database maintained by the US Food and Drug Administration. Prescriptions seemed more prominent in the South. In both databases, steroid use has steadily increased over time.

“Given the increased use of corticosteroids through August 2021, the potential (risk)…and lack of efficacy data in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19, it is critical that prescribers take into account NIH guidelines in the therapeutic management non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19,” the steroid study authors said.

Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Bercrot)

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