WASHINGTON, D.C. — For those who’ve had COVID, it can be a long haul, even after recovering from the infection.
“We're compelled by the science; we're compelled by the need,” said Bill Hinshaw, president and CEO of Axcella, near Boston, which is currently in a Phase 2A clinical trial of a treatment for long COVID.
The symptom they are targeting: fatigue.
“Think of your cellular energy levels as like a rechargeable battery,” Hinshaw said. “You need to draw upon that battery and then you need to replenish it. And that's what your body normally does through mitochondria.”
Most people who get COVID recover from it, but about 30% of people infected do not. Many are left with damage to their mitochondria, the so-called "rechargeable battery," which leads to fatigue.
“Our goal is to be able to repair that battery so it can hold that charge again and people can return to their normal life,” Hinshaw said.
Across the Atlantic, their clinical trial is now underway at Oxford University in the U.K.
“The sheer number of people who are affected by COVID means that long COVID is likely to be a substantial problem,” said Dr. Betty Raman, a cardiologist and a clinical research fellow at Oxford’s Radcliffe Department of Medicine.
Dr. Raman is conducting the clinical trial.
“We know that long COVID is not restricted to those with severe disease and that people with even mild symptoms during their early infection can continue to have symptoms in the long term,” she said.
The 40 people participating in the testing at Oxford will get either get the treatment or the placebo for 28 days. Then, researchers will look at how it impacts their fatigue.
“It’s likely that, if this is a positive trial, then it can substantially change the quality of life of millions of people across the world,” Dr. Raman said.
Within the next three months, researchers hope to learn whether this treatment for long COVID fatigue works. If it does, it will lead to a much larger clinical trial and could include patients from other countries, like the U.S.