New sepsis treatment being used on critical COVID-19 patients

Microscope file photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / DarrenBaker

London-based researchers have begun clinical trials on the world’s first sepsis treatment using a human protein for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Lawson Health Research Institute scientists hope to enroll 60 patients in the trial.

Using the protein annexin A5, the team hopes to build on findings from a pre-clinical trial by Lawson Scientist Dr. Qingping Feng. A team led by Feng previously found annexin A5, a human protein that has strong anti-inflammatory properties, can hinder inflammation and improve organ function and survival of sepsis in animal models.

“If in fact Annexin A5 is shown to be effective in sepsis, then this will be a huge benefit for society because sepsis is the leading cause of death worldwide,” said Feng.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that develops when the body’s response to chemicals released to fight infection is out of balance, triggering hyperinflammation and potentially damaging multiple organs.

The majority of critically ill patients with COVID-19 develop sepsis, according to researchers.

“For patients with severe COVID-19 disease, what we see is major respiratory failure in the lungs as the primary site in the body,” Dr. Claudio Martin, associate scientist at Lawson and intensive care physician at LHSC, said in a statement. “When the pandemic started, there was no proven treatment for sepsis, including sepsis as a result of COVID-19. Based on clinical trials during the pandemic, we now use steroids and other treatments to try to help, but the results and effects aren’t dramatic and we see patients who have these treatments and still progress and end up in the ICU.”

The clinical study will use a manufactured form of annexin A5. Patients participating in the trials will be given annexin A5 at two different doses or a placebo.

If positive results come from the initial clinical trial, it will be expanded into three larger phases where the human protein will be used on more than just COVID-19 patients, but other patients with sepsis.