ANU Professor Frank van Haren leads study into new COVID treatment | The Canberra Times

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A widely available blood thinning drug could provide a huge boost in the treatment of COVID-19, with research finding a 70 per cent improvement in oxygen levels in patients it was administered to. Research led by the Australian National University has discovered that when the blood thinning drug heparin is inhaled it effectively stops the virus from infecting cells in the lungs. Researchers are hopeful the drug could be used to treat COVID patients across the world within months, pending the results of further research. Heparin is normally administered by an injection and is mostly used to treat blood clots. Researchers say the drug is low cost and widely available. Studies of the treatment have taken place across 13 countries. There were 98 patients treated with the inhaled heparin between April 2020 and January 2021. COVID symptoms improved in 70 per cent of patients it was administered to. ANU study lead Professor Frank van Haren said the results of the study indicated the drug was a promising treatment and could play a major role in COVID treatment across the world. “There is still an urgent need for an effective treatment of COVID-19 and the early results of our trials show inhaled heparin is safe and effective,” Professor van Haren said. “This drug is already available in hospitals all over the world and it is a very inexpensive drug. If it is as effective as our early results suggest, it could have a major impact in our fight against COVID. “It could be used pretty much straightaway everywhere. And not just in rich countries like our country, but also in low and middle income countries. And that’s perhaps one of the most exciting parts of this whole research program. “We’re working with a whole bunch of researchers from different countries to be able to generate this evidence. But we’re not there yet. We still need to get evidence from our big global initiative, that it actually improves outcomes for patients.” The drug has antiviral properties and can be used at multiple stages of treatment. “Inhaled heparin effectively stops the virus infecting cells in the lungs and could also stop people from getting the virus from others,” King’s College London study co-author Professor Clive Page said. “It also works as an anti-inflammatory drug – the medicine has the ability to calm everything down when the body is mounting an exaggerated response to the virus. We already know heparin can reduce lung damage caused by this inflammation and the immune response overdrive that we see in other lung diseases which could provide benefit to patients hospitalised with COVID-19. READ ALSO: Professor van Haren said the drug could be particularly useful in poorer countries where there are low vaccination rates. “Most COVID experts agree that vaccination alone is not going to stop the pandemic. This could really assist in poorer countries where vaccination is challenging and we think it could help front line workers who could use it as a preventative measure,” Professor van Haren said. “Inhaled heparin is a promising new possibility to provide a low-cost, safe and effective treatment for COVID-19 that is available and affordable to low and middle-income countries around the globe.” A study across four hospitals in Australia will commence next week. The study will be conducted at St George Hospital and the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, as well as the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle and St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:


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