Research Roundup: Global Solidarity trial restarts, a COVID post-exposure prophylaxis, and first chikungunya vaccine approaches launch
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Solidarity, a global clinical trial led by the World Health Organization, will resume its efforts, testing three new treatments among hospitalized COVID-19 patients: artesunate, an antimalaria; infliximab, an antibody used to treat autoimmune disease; and imatinib, a cancer drug. The original Solidarity trial, which took place across dozens of countries simultaneously in 2020, found that none of the four treatments it tested showed benefit. While the original trial included antivirals, this new phase will focus on drugs that target the body’s immune response, rather than the virus itself, given the two drugs that have shown success in reducing mortality in hospitalized patients, dexamethasone and tocilizumbab, work by dampening patients’ immune reactions. Medicines have shipped to Finland as the first country to begin the trial with 40 more countries in the process of seeking ethical and regulatory approvals to join.
Use of the monoclonal antibody therapy REGEN-COV reduced the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 infection by 81 percent in those exposed to an infected patient, according to a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, which included individuals over 12 who had a household member test positive within the prior 96 hours, found that by day 28, 1.5 percent of participants who received the therapy developed symptomatic infection compared to 7.8 percent who received the placebo. When including asymptomatic infections, risk reduction from the treatment was 66.4 percent. The study also found that patients who did become infected after receiving the therapy were more likely to have milder disease. These findings were used to support a decision late last month by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand emergency use authorization for REGEN-COV to be used as a post-exposure prophylaxis among high-risk populations.
Valneva shared positive results last week from the phase 3 trial of its single-dose vaccine against chikungunya, which found that 98.5 percent of participants saw protective antibody concentrations 28 days after receiving the shot. This protection rate exceeds the 70 percent threshold set by the FDA. The trial also found that the VLA1553 vaccine was generally well-tolerated and induced a high immune response among elderly trial participants. The trial will continue with outcomes evaluated until month six. VLA153 is currently the only chikungunya vaccine in phase 3 trials that targets long-term protection from a single-dose, according to its developer. The company signed an agreement earlier this year with the Instituto Butantan in Brazil for development, manufacturing, and marketing, with the goal of making the product more accessible in low- and middle-income countries.