Cambridge trial targets immune response to treat COVID-19 patients

The TACTIC-R trial will target patients as they are admitted to hospital, and test whether drugs that suppress the immune system can prevent the body from ‘over-reacting’ to infection and destroy healthy tissues as well as virus-infected ones, leading to severe COVID-19 disease.

For the majority of people who have COVID-19, the infection causes only mild symptoms including a fever and cough. However, around 15% of patients develop severe disease, which includes serious damage to the lungs and multiple organ failure. This lung and organ damage appears to be mostly caused by the body’s own immune system responding to the presence of infected cells. Researchers hope that preventing the immune ‘over-reaction’ using drugs that stop or ‘suppress’ the immune response will stop patients developing the severest form of COVID-19, preventing the need for intensive care.

TACTIC will initially test two drugs – Ravulizumab and Baricitinib – that used to treat other conditions caused by an overactive immune system.

Ravulizumab is usually used to treat autoimmune conditions where the body destroys red blood cells.

Baricitinib is used to treat people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Both these drugs have been carefully selected by a consortium of doctors and scientists with expertise in treating immune-mediated diseases, and are thought to have a high chance of reducing the immune ‘over-reactions’ seen in very sick patients with COVID-19.

This is an abridged version of the news story that was first published on our website on 16 May 2020.

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