Stanford Medicine researchers lead clinical trial of interferon-lambda for COVID-19

Stanford Medicine: Scientists at Stanford Medicine are investigating whether a molecule called interferon-lambda can help people with mild cases of COVID-19 feel better and reduce their transmission of the disease-causing virus.

MAY 11 2020           

 A clinical trial is underway at Stanford Medicine to determine whether a drug can keep people who’ve just tested positive for the coronavirus out of the hospital, help them recover faster and make them safer to be around in the meantime.  

The researchers also want to know whether the drug stems viral shedding, which would reduce transmission to family members and the community.

The drug being looked at, interferon-lambda, is a manufactured form of a naturally occurring protein that’s been given in previous clinical trials to more than 3,000 people infected with hepatitis viruses.

“Its safety profile appears to be excellent,” said principal investigator Prasanna Jagannathan, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases at the School of Medicine. He is co-leading the study with Upinder Singh, MD, professor of infectious diseases and of microbiology and immunology at the school.

Results in laboratory settings and in animals also suggest that lambda-interferon may be helpful in controlling viruses that cause respiratory illnesses such as influenza and SARS, an often fatal disease. It may also help snuff out other common viral infections. 

Remdesivir, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use as a COVID-19 treatment, is restricted to hospitalized patients. Yet the great majority of patients with the disease — upward of 80% — are outpatients, for whom no drugs have been proven safe and effective, Singh said. 

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