Last April, Dr Keith Dorrington, Dunhill Fellow in Physiology, wrote about his research into the drug almitrine as a possible treatment for COVID-19. The study got underway last month, beginning initially in Reading and now including Cardiff and Oxford. Dr Nick Talbot, Stipendiary Lecturer in Medicine and Consultant Respiratory Physician, and Professor Najib Rahman, Fellow in Clinical Medicine and Consultant Respiratory Physician, are also involved in the effort.
Almitrine was first shown to be effective in patients with chronic obstructive lung disease (which we think of mainly as the chronic bronchitis associated with smoking). It has been shown to enhance the contractile behaviour of blood vessels in the diseased parts of the lungs where the level of oxygen is low, as depicted in the cartoon by a screw labelled ABC. In the last few years, almitrine has also been shown to improve the oxygenation of the blood (probably by improving this contractile behaviour) in patients with severe lung disease from all sorts of causes, including viral pneumonias. The trial aims to see whether almitrine, given as capsules by mouth, might prevent some COVID-19 patients from progressing to needing intubation and ventilation.
Dr Dorrington commented, “In truth, by far the lion’s share of the work has been done by Prof Peter Robbins, my colleague in DPAG (Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics) and Prof Chris Schofield in Chemistry. Of the Univ three, Dr Talbot has worked extremely hard.
“This trial may have come a bit late for the pandemic in this country, but, being an oral medication, it offers potential especially in settings in which oxygen supply is unreliable or non-existent.”
Published: 8 April 2021