Stroke clot-buster drugs could be harnessed to tackle COVID-1904 May 2020
A drug commonly used to treat patients suffering from strokes could be repurposed to treat patients with COVID-19, according to a team of researchers.
In a new paper published in the Journal of Thrombosis & Haemostasis, a team from the University of Reading, Aberdeen and Oxford and the Royal Free Hospital, London review research on acute respiratory syndromes and the presence of blood clots caused by a build-up of proteins called fibrins.
They suggest an aerosol version of a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) could be a pragmatic way to tackle lung injury complications caused by the virus. The drug is currently used to treat stroke patients and could be used to target clots that have already formed.
Dr Joanne Mitchell from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health at the University of Reading said:
“In critically ill COVID-19 patients, one of the issues they are facing is an impact on lung capacity caused by injury and inflammation. The use of a tPA to break down blood clots formed in the lungs may well help those suffering with the disease. Those clots may be responsible for reducing lung capacity and the associated impact of requiring large amounts of oxygen to stabilise the disease.
“Repurposing current drugs can be very helpful to tackle Covid-19, and this drug could be one way of treating ongoing lung injury and inflammation in these patients with drugs that we know can safely be administered.”
Similar diseases to COVID-19, including the common flu, can create inflammation which results in deposits of a protein called fibrin. Fibrin is the scaffold that blood clots are made of.
This build up of fibrin takes up space and reduces the amount of oxygen the lung can take in.
Patients with COVID-19 are prone to forming unwanted blood clots which ultimately increases the risk of death.
Dr Nicola Mutch, from the University of Aberdeen, which led the research team, said: “Given the urgent time scale of treating severely ill patients and the current burden on the NHS, repurposing of existing therapies, such as tPA, is a pragmatic approach in addressing the lung injury complications associated with COVID-19.”
Currently the advice is to treat COVID-19 patients with lung complications using medication to prevent unwanted blood clots forming. However, these medications will not help to breakdown clots that have already formed.
The authors note that a nebulized tPA treatment is currently in phase two clinical trials, and an intravenous treatment of tPA is already approved for treatment for thrombosis.
The research was part funded by grants from the British Heart Foundation.