COVID SCIENCE: HIV drugs may lower COVID risk; COVID and flu co-infection raises risk of severe illness, death

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (UK B.1.1.7 variant), isolated from a patient sample and cultivated in cell culture. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID
Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (UK B.1.1.7 variant), isolated from a patient sample and cultivated in cell culture. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

HIV drugs may curb COVID-19 risk

Certain drugs used to treat HIV may have a role in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections, according to preliminary data that may help explain why people living with the condition have not appeared to be at higher risk for serious COVID-19 despite being generally more vulnerable to infections.

Doctors in France studied more than 500 people with HIV, a third of whom were receiving long-term treatment with protease inhibitor drugs as part of their antiviral therapy. 

Over the course of a year, SARS-CoV-2 infections were diagnosed in 12% of participants taking protease inhibitors and 22% of those not receiving these drugs. Four patients in the non-protease-inhibitor group were admitted to hospital with COVID-19. 

After accounting for other risk factors, individuals taking protease inhibitors were 70% less likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2 than patients who were not taking these drugs, according to data scheduled for presentation at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.

Some new treatments for COVID-19 use protease inhibitors, which block the virus from multiplying. 

“Protease inhibitor drugs have long history of use, a good safety profile, and are generally well tolerated,” Dr. Steve Nguala from the Intercommunal Hospital Center of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, said in a statement. They have the potential “to prevent the spread of infections and mutation of future variants,” he said, adding that larger studies are needed to confirm the findings.

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