Giving inhaled interferon beta-1a protein to hospitalized COVID-19 patients can double the chances of recovery and reduce the chances of developing the most severe symptoms of the disease, according to A study published this Thursday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The clinical trial, developed by the University of Oxford and other British centers, was carried out with 101 patients in nine hospitals from United Kingdom.

Patients who inhaled this protein once a day for two weeks showed less likely to develop severe symptoms than those who received placebo, according to the study’s findings.

22% of patients who took placebo (11 of 50 patients) developed severe complications due to COVID-19 and required mechanical ventilation or died within 15 to 16 days of receiving the first dose.

Among those who inhaled interferon beta, a way of delivering the substance that allows it to reach directly to the lungs, 13% suffered the same complications (6 of 48, among whom there were no deaths).

Restore immune response

“Our results confirm our belief that interferon beta, a widely known and approved for injectable use in other indications, it may have the potential to restore the immune response in the lungs in its inhaled form, “said Tom Wilkinson, lead author of the work, in a statement.

“Inhaled interferon beta-1a supplies high and localized concentrations of this immune protein, which triggers the defenses in the lungs “ and “it may represent additional advantages when treating a COVID-19 infection that acts in conjunction with another respiratory virus,” added the researcher.

The safety of inhaled doses has been tested by monitoring the possible adverse effects of patients over a period of 28 days.

54% of the patients who received the protein and 60% of the patients in the placebo group showed some type of adverse effect during treatment, in most cases headache.

The authors of the work warn that it is a trial with a small sample of patients, so their conclusions cannot yet be generalized to large populations.

The team that has developed this study is at the same time testing the interferon beta-1a treatment in prehospital patients.