A drug that successfully cured 29 of 30 cases of COVID-19 in Israeli hospital patients in 2-5 days has been hailed as a “huge breakthrough”, reports The Daily Telegraph. The EXO-CD24 substance was developed at the Ichilov Medical Centre in Tel Aviv and successfully completed its first phase of clinical trials.
The treatment was given to 30 patients with coronavirus, whose conditions ranged from moderate to severe. Twenty-nine of the patients were then discharged from the hospital in the following three to five days, while one patient took slightly longer to recover.
A protein known as CD24 is delivered to the lungs by exosomes in the drug, which helps to rebalance the immune system and prevent it from overreacting to the virus.
Professor Nadir Arber, director of the hospital's Integrated Cancer Prevention Centre, originally designed EXO-CD24, which is breathed in as a gas and taken once every five days, in order to treat patients who had ovarian cancer. “Even if the vaccines do their job, and even if there aren't any new mutations, one way or another, the coronavirus will be staying with us,” Arber is quoted in the report as saying.
“Thatʼs why we developed this special medication. Itʼs been about half a year from the time the idea was hatched to the first human trials (being) conducted.”
Globes reports that Ichilov Hospital's drug is based on exosomes, minute particles in the cell fluid that play a role in intercellular communication, into which the researchers introduced CD24, a protein that removes excess immune cells, which is apparently damaged when the immune system gets out of control.
The excessive response of the immune system is often worse for coronavirus patients than the effect of the virus itself, and most of the companies developing treatments for the severe stage of the disease are actually trying to calm the immune system in various ways.
The preparation is administered by being inhaled into the lungs once every twenty-hours for a few minutes over several days. The advantage of this method of administering treatment is that various elements of the immune system can be restrained, but only locally in the lungs, where the immune system is doing damage, without causing side-effects in the rest of the body and without overly repressing desirable immune responses in other organs.
The medicine will now move on to further trial phases, but hospital officials were already hailing it as a possible game-changer in fighting serious COVID-19 illness, reports The Times of Israel.
Ichilov director Roni Gamzu said the research “is advanced and sophisticated and may save coronavirus patients. The results of the phase 1 trial are excellent and give us all confidence in the method (Arber) has been researching in his lab for many years.”
Full report in The Daily Telegraph (Restricted access)
Full Globes report (Open access)
Full report in The Times of Israel (Open access)