PGIMER, along with AIIMS Delhi and AIIMS Bhopal will conduct a multi-center clinical trial of a drug called Mycobacterium W (Mw), which was created in the 1960’s as an immunomodulation drug for leprosy. The drug was previously tested by a team of PGIMER researchers on gram negative sepsis, a severe blood disease. The drug was effective in reducing mortality rate in patients suffering from the disease.
The clinical trial has been approved by the Drug Controller of India as well as the hospital’s ethics committee and will be carried out by doctors from the Pulmonary medicine department of the institute on Covid-19 patients. The trial will include 40 patients who have given their due consent.
Half of these patients will be injected with the Mw drug and the rest of the 20 will only be administered plain water as a placebo. Apart from this, the COVID-19 patients will be given the usual symptomatic treatment and care for the disease. The trial will go up to a period of six months and all the patients will be closely monitored in case they develop any adverse side effects.
“In this preliminary study with Mycobacterium w, we mainly plan to include all critically ill patients with COVID-19, irrespective of other associated illnesses. In addition, we are also exploring the possibility of using this for COVID-19 patients with milder symptoms, and as preventive strategy in healthcare workers and contacts of patients with COVID-19,” said Dr Ashutosh Nath Aggarwal, Head of Pulmonary Medicine at PGIMER.
“Mw is an immunomodulation drug, which basically means that it boosts or enhances one’s immunity towards infections,” said a senior faculty member from the institute, who wished to remain anonymous. “Critically ill COVID-19 patients have a larger number of cytokines which lead to life threatening complications such as organ failure as has been observed globally, and it is believed that this drug can potentially decrease cytokine levels in one’s blood and decrease mortality rate,” said the faculty member.
Cytokines are protein byproducts formed by immune cells and are hence found in excess in patients whose bodies are fighting off severe infection.
Apart from being effective in considerably reducing mortality rate in sepsis patients, trials of the drug have also been conducted on TB patients. However, the drug was not too successful in decreasing risk of infection in these patients. Furthermore, the medicine has never been used against viral infections before, therefore its efficacy against COVID-19 is truly uncertain as of now.
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