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Covid-19 treatment trial for kidney patients goes national

An Addenbrooke’s trial is rolling out to hospitals across the UK to see if a drug used to treat tapeworm can give high-risk kidney patients extra protection against Covid-19.

The PROTECT-V study has been running since February and now 40 more hospitals will join in to investigate whether niclosamide can reduce the number of people who become seriously ill or die.

If the trial is successful, it may pave the way for a new treatment to prevent or alleviate the impact of Covid-19 in people on dialysis, kidney transplant patients, and those with auto-immune diseases affecting the kidneys, such as vasculitis.

Dr Rona Smith - leading the trial
Dr Rona Smith, consultant nephrologist

Addenbrooke’s consultant nephrologist and University of Cambridge senior research associate, Dr Rona Smith, is heading the UK study into whether niclosamide can protect people on its own, or in combination with other drugs.

She said:

It is vital we find a way to protect high-risk kidney patients from catching SARS-CoV-2 and developing Covid-19. If they get it, they are more likely to fall seriously ill or die, and we need to find a way to change that.

Dr Rona Smith, consultant nephrologist

“We believe testing niclosamide is particularly important for people who are immunosuppressed and have kidney disease, because their immune responses to vaccines can sometimes be less effective - there are early indications that not all transplant patients respond to two doses of some Covid vaccines. While the vaccine may offer a level of protection, niclosamide may provide further protection against Covid-19 that doesn’t rely on the immune system mounting a response.

“If successful, our innovative trial could mean that the treatment becomes available to kidney patients more widely within months. It would mean they could receive their regular life-saving dialysis or take their immunosuppressant drugs without additional worry. And if it’s successful it could even be rolled out more widely – and benefit more vulnerable people.”

Professor Jeremy Hughes, kidney doctor and chair of trustees at Kidney Research UK, one of the charities funding the trial, said: “We must do everything we can to protect kidney patients, who are at serious risk from Covid-19.

Sadly, data collected before the vaccine rollout began showed one in five kidney patients receiving dialysis in hospital or who have a kidney transplant and tested positive for the virus died within four weeks. Many of those on dialysis are having to put themselves at risk and attend their renal unit for life-saving dialysis treatment several times each week

Professor Jeremy Hughes, Kidney Research UK

The trial is recruiting at least 1,500 kidney patients across the UK, who will receive either a placebo or niclosamide as a nasal spray, both provided by the manufacturer, UNION therapeutics. Additional promising drugs could be added in the future,

Kidney patients should continue to have the vaccine, as soon as they are offered it. Those who have had a kidney transplant must continue taking their immunosuppressant drugs, despite these making them more susceptible to infection.

Kidney patients who would like to take part in PROTECT-V should speak to their nephrologist in their local centre . More information is available via https://www.camcovidtrials.net/trials/view,protectv_50.htm

The trial, led by the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Cambridge, is funded by LifeArc, Kidney Research UK, the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust and UNION therapeutics and is supported by the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre. UNION therapeutics is supplying the drug.