UC COVID-19 research examines safety and efficacy of immune suppressing drug

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are testing a commonly used drug, called sirolimus, to determine its safety and efficacy in treating hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia in the trial.

The research trial, called Sirolimus Treatment in Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19 Pneumonia (SCOPE), will examine the Food and Drug Administration-approved medication that is most commonly used to prevent organ rejection in patients with kidney transplants. It is also FDA-approved for the treatment of a rare lung disease, LAM.

There are several reasons why sirolimus was a logical target when researching potential treatments for COVID-19, according to Nishant Gupta, MD, associate professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at the UC College of Medicine and the principal investigator of the study. Sirolimus has been shown to inhibit the replication of a variety of viruses, including MERS. In a randomized controlled study involving healthy volunteers, treatment with medications that act similar to sirolimus resulted in improved immune response to influenza vaccination.

“In animal models, sirolimus has been shown to regulate the immune system in a way where it augments the body’s response against viral pathogens and dampens the overall immune response that is responsible for the bad outcomes in patients with COVID-19,” says Gupta. “This dual action of selectively augmenting the response against viral pathogens and regulating the immune system to prevent collateral organ damage makes sirolimus a really promising treatment target for patients with COVID-19.”

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