British Scientists Behind Major Study Launching COVID Test to Test Monkey Smallpox Treatment

British Scientists Behind Major Study Launching COVID Test to Test Monkey Smallpox Treatment

by Natalie Grover

LONDON (Reuters) – The British scientists behind one of the key Covid-19 therapeutic trials have turned their focus to treatments for smallpox, a viral disease that has been labeled a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Oxford University team behind the so-called RECOVERY study — which improved four effective treatments for COVID — on Tuesday released a new study, dubbed PLATINUM, to confirm whether SIGA Technologies’ tecovirimat is an effective treatment for smallpox. monkeys.

While there are vaccines developed for the closely related smallpox that can reduce the risk of catching smallpox from monkeys, there are currently no treatments that have been proven to help speed recovery in those who develop the disease.

More than 40,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox – including some deaths – in more than 80 countries where the virus is not endemic have been reported since early May. More than 35% of the current global case count is in the US, while the UK has over 3,000 confirmed cases.

The virus is mainly transmitted through close contact with an infected person. It usually causes mild symptoms, including fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes, and pus-filled skin lesions. Severe cases can occur, although people tend to recover within two to four weeks, according to the WHO.

Siga’s drug, branded Tpoxx, has been cleared to treat diseases caused by the orthopoxvirus family, which includes smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox, by the European Union and the United Kingdom, but due to limited testing data, it is usually used only in severe cases in Great Britain.

In the United States and Canada, the drug is only approved to treat smallpox.

Since smallpox was eradicated and cases of monkeypox and cowpox usually occur sporadically, studies to assess the drug’s effectiveness in infected people have so far not been conducted.

Instead, its effectiveness is based on studies in animals infected with lethal doses of orthopoxvirus, as well as testing the drug’s effects on healthy humans.

The PLATINUM trial, funded by a UK government grant of £3.7m ($4.35m), aims to recruit at least 500 participants. Participants will receive a 14-day course of tecovirimat twice daily or a placebo.

To assess the effectiveness of the drug, the rate of wound healing, the time it takes for patients to test negative for the virus, and the proportion of patients requiring hospitalization due to complications will be tracked.

“I hope we can have a result before Christmas, but it depends on the rate of recruitment,” said Sir Peter Horby, professor of emerging infections and global health at the University of Oxford and director of the new Pandemic Sciences Institute. .

Earlier this month, US officials indicated they were planning a randomized clinical trial in the country to determine whether tecovirimat should secure US approval for monkeypox.

Siga, which sells an oral and intravenous formulation of the drug, has already received $60 million in orders for oral tecovirimat this year.

Meanwhile, the only approved monkeypox vaccine – made by the Danish company Bavarian Nordic – is in short supply, prompting countries to stretch existing supplies.

($1 = 0.8499 pounds)

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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