Home South African SA professor develops first anti-Covid-19 drug treatment

SA professor develops first anti-Covid-19 drug treatment


In the first round of trials the drug showed that 98.2% of patients were clear of all Covid-19 symptoms within 96 hours.

File picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

A DURBAN clinical pharmacologist has developed a drug which in the first round of trials showed that 98.2% of patients were clear of all Covid-19 symptoms within 96 hours.

Vaccines are used as a preventative measure to prepare immune systems to fight off diseases and ideally prevent further infections but treatments are typically used when patients are already sick with a certain disease.

The clinical pharmacologist, who cannot be named as yet due to contractual obligations, lectures part-time and is a research fellow at the Durban University of Technology.

The professor told the Sunday Tribune that the drug, known by the identification tag HIM20, was developed in May but was not yet available to the public as it was going through a second round of testing.

“It underwent clinical trials from May to November and was administered to 133 Covid-19 positive patients who presented at least three symptoms. 98.2% of patients were clear of all symptoms within 96 hours of initiating the drug therapy. Side effects were minimal in that 4% of patients presented with minor nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea,” he said.

The professor had a team of five doctors and pharmacists who assisted with the clinical trial.

They monitored compliance, side effects, adverse reactions and determining pharmacokinetic profiles of the drug.

The professor used his own funds for the research which was conducted under the auspices of the research company – I.M. Chemical Corporation.

“Covid-19 is triggered by the virus Saes-cov2. Thereafter it presents predominantly as an inflammatory disorder so signs and symptoms presented are consequences of inflammatory processes within the body. Common examples are fevers, sore throats and body pains. The question then arises – should anti-inflammatory drugs play a major role? The answer was a resounding no. My research proved the opposite to be true and this is what led me towards the synthesis of HIM20,” they said.

The clinical pharmacologist said patients above the age of 65 taking anti-inflammatory drugs for a host of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis were significantly more prone to contracting Covid-19.

“The body has a large number of inflammatory mediators and they are classified as cytokines. Common anti-inflammatory drugs block one to two inflammatory mediators. Once a patient contracts Covid- 19 the body is flooded with inflammatory mediators, producing coronavirus symptoms. This flooding is referred to as the cytokine storm. Any Covid-19 treatment must have the capacity to block this storm,” he said.

They said the molecular design of HIM20 was to block the release of multiple inflammatory mediators amongst other effects.

“But with that said, 1.8% of patients did not respond to the HIM20 treatment. Two-thirds of these patients were diabetic. This group included diabetics. There seemed to be some yet unknown mechanism at play in these patients that prevented the therapeutic effect of HIM20. The other one-third of non-responsive patients were over the age of 74,” they said.

The clinical pharmacologist said two patient groups formed part of a second study to use HIM20 as a preventative against Covid-19.

“The same team is working on the second study and HIM20 will become available once our study and the registration process is completed.”

Speaking on the recent global developments on Covid-19 vaccines, the professor said data was still limited which made things difficult.

“A vaccine is purely prophylactic and once a patient has contracted Covid-19, the vaccine is useless. Also, the current iterations of Covid-19 vaccines are not orally effective and must be injected. But HIM20 is orally effective and may be self-administered.”

Eleven vaccines are currently in clinical testing with nine already entered in a partnership with COVAX.

The country currently hosts clinical vaccine trials by Johnson & Johnson alongside a partnership between Astrazeneca Plc and the University of Oxford.

On Thursday President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated the country’s engagement with the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility initiative.