According to the researchers, including those from the University of Hong Kong, treatment involving a combination of the drugs interferon beta-1b, plus the antiviral therapy lopinavir-ritonavir and ribavirin, is better at reducing the viral load than lopinavir-ritonavir alone.
Larger phase 3 trials to examine the effectiveness of this triple combination in critically ill patients, adding that these early findings were only observed in patients with mild to moderate illness are the need of the hour
Based on earlier studies on influenza, in which patients have high quantities of the virus in their bodies when the symptoms begin to appear, they said treating hospitalised patients with a combination of multiple antiviral drugs may be more effective than single-drug treatments.
According to the researchers, this may minimise the risk of antiviral resistance and can be used as a possible therapeutic approach for COVID-19, in which the viral load also peaks around the time of symptom onset.
“Our trial demonstrates that early treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 with a triple combination of antiviral drugs may rapidly suppress the amount of virus in a patient’s body, and relieve symptoms by reducing the duration and quantity of viral shedding,” said study co-author Kwok-Yung Yuen from the University of Hong Kong.
“These findings suggest that interferon beta 1-b may be a key component of the combination treatment and is worth further investigation for the treatment of COVID-19”, said Jenny Lo, co-author of the study from Ruttonjee Hospital in Hong Kong.
The researchers believe that a future phase 3 trial will confirm or refute the usefulness of this candidate drug as a backbone treatment for COVID-19.
They also said the findings may be confounded by the subgroup of 34 patients within the combination group who were admitted seven days or more after symptom onset, and were not offered interferon beta-1b, but were analysed as part of the combination group.