T.Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic, and millions of people around the world are suffering from long-term complications of the virus, there is no cure or prevention for long-term COVID-19 other than not getting it in the first place. There is still no proven method for
But more recently, there has been some cautious optimism. Researchers have found encouraging (albeit preliminary) indications that certain drugs may reduce the risk of developing long-term COVID-19, and possibly relieve symptoms in people who are already sick. .
The latest hopeful news metforminis an available and affordable drug that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes since the 1990s.Metformin, which belongs to a class of drugs called biguanides, is taken as a liquid or tablet and works by controlling the amount of sugar in the blood. reduce inflammation in the body.
of the study Posted online in March, but not yet peer-reviewed, researchers studied a group of 564 overweight or obese U.S. adults who started a two-week course of metformin when infected with acute COVID-19. People who took metformin were 42% less likely to be diagnosed with long-term COVID-19 over the next 10 months than those who took a placebo when they first got sick with COVID-19. I was. (This study also tracked the effects of the drugs ivermectin and fluvoxamine, neither of which showed any benefit for long COVID.)
Metformin appeared to be even more effective when used early. People who took it within four days of onset of symptoms had a greater than 60% reduction in the risk of long-term COVID. About 6% of those who did were diagnosed with Long COVID, compared to more than 10% of those who took a placebo.
Other studies show Metformin can block replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and could help prevent both serious illness and long-term complications, said study co-author and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. explains Carolyn Bramante, Ph.D. Metformin appears to act against viruses by blocking proteins in human cells that the virus uses to copy itself, interfering with the inflammatory response caused by the virus.
Bramante said he was pleasantly surprised at how well metformin seemed to prevent long COVID, especially when taken immediately, but more research is needed to confirm the findings. “It’s probably in every pharmacy in the world,” says Bramante. Someone “may take metformin within a day of knowing he has COVID.”
In the future, Bramante said, researchers should also study whether metformin can treat pre-existing long COVID symptoms. believed to be caused by If that’s true, metformin’s antiviral properties may help clear it from the body, says Bramante.
Another recent study found that Paxlovid, an antiviral drug used to prevent severe COVID-19 in high-risk patients, could help prevent long-term COVID in a similar way. is also suggested. One study Posted online late 2022 People who took paxlobid within five days of testing positive for COVID-19 had a 26% lower risk of developing long-term COVID compared to untreated controls. (Another antiviral drug, encitrelvir, approved in Japan but not in the United States, may also reduce her risk of developing COVID long-term if taken soon after a positive test. announced by the manufacturer in February. )
Some researchers are also studying whether paxlovid can treat long-term COVID symptoms. This is an important issue as there is still no proven cure for long COVID.
read more: People are much less likely to get long COVID after Omicron, study finds
Long COVID is difficult to treat. At least in part because the disease comes in many different forms. One person may have debilitating fatigue and brain fog, another may have gastrointestinal problems and nervous system dysfunction. A single that can treat all Long COVID instead of trying to find a drug for Over 200 potential symptomsseveral research teams are focusing on specific conditions or groups of them in hopes of finding targeted therapies.
Several tools used to treat people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a post-viral condition that shares key symptoms with Long COVID (such as extreme fatigue and post-exercise crashes), People with post-COVID complications may also benefit. article was announced in nature review microbiology in January.These tools include an energy delivery strategy known as pacing, the anti-inflammatory drug low-dose naltrexone, and beta blockers that slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure. is also shown Similar to blood thinners, small studies to reduce some long-term COVID symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and immobility.
Dr. Eric Topol, founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and co-author of the recent review, said: Preliminary data Stimulation of the vagus nerve to help control involuntary behaviors such as breathing and heart rate to relieve certain symptoms.
Several research teams are also investigating transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as a potential treatment. Researchers are already studying whether tDCS devices, which stimulate the brain with low-intensity electrical currents delivered to the scalp, can improve cognition, mental health, and chronic pain. Consumers can purchase a variety of tDCS devices for use at home, many of which are not FDA-cleared.
in one small study Published online September 2022 Researchers found that after eight tDCS sessions, people with long-term COVID reported less physical fatigue and depression, although mental fatigue and overall quality of life scores did not improve. Researchers have discovered
Jordi Matias Guiu, Ph.D., a clinical neurologist and study co-author, said he plans a longer follow-up study to see if patients receive treatment for three weeks and see if it leads to better outcomes. “This should be confirmed in other clinical trials, but the findings are encouraging,” he says. technology. [side effects]”
The list of potential treatments continues to grow, but the field needs larger and more coordinated research projects, says Topol. At present, most findings come from small studies and require peer review, extension and replication. His billion-dollar long-term COVID research project at the National Institutes of Health, RECOVER, has begun designing trials for potential treatments, but not yet.
Topol says it’s disappointing that there are no proven treatments, but he thinks the recent findings about metformin’s potential to prevent long-term COVID are “very good news.”
Topol agrees that more research is needed on metformin, but the early findings are promising enough that the drug is safe and cheap enough to help individuals if they get sick with COVID-19. “I don’t want to get COVID,” Topol says.
Other must-read articles from TIME