New monkeypox treatment trial launched by Covid researchers

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A new drug to treat monkeypox is to be tested by a team that leads to successful COVID treatment.

The drug, which could help speedy recovery for people infected with monkeypox, is being tested by a team of scientists from the University of Oxford, after receiving £3.7m from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) .

The drug Tecovirimat was originally developed as a treatment for smallpox and aims to stop the virus from leaving infected cells, preventing its spread.

The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) licensed the drug for use for monkeypox based on the results of studies in animals indicating that it was safe for healthy human volunteers.

It is being used by hospitals for people with complications of severe monkeypox, but there are no clinical trials yet to confirm whether it can help people recover from the disease.

Professor Lucy Chappelle, Chief Executive of the NIHR and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “This study is a very important next step towards looking at treatment of monkeypox outside the hospital.

“It is important that we invest in the development, refinement and evaluation of treatments for this disease. We commissioned this research to show the spirit and seriousness with which the health research community is collectively approaching the issue ”

Britain’s Health Protection Agency announced this week that it has launched three pilots offering small doses of the monkeypox vaccine to patients amid concerns over shortages.

Aaron Tulune, a training and volunteer coordinator for Positive UK, a charity that supports those living with HIV, was treated for monkeypox after being diagnosed in June.

Tulune added: ‘When you’re really sick and in pain, you’re ready to do anything, but you want to know if it’s going to work. I was in Royal Free London, when my doctors offered me Tecovirimat, I was suffering from monkeypox. They told me that there was no data on how efficient it was, but even after my health had not improved, I wanted to take it. And for the first time my health improved and I started feeling better.

“I don’t want anyone else to be as seriously ill as I was… Knowing if there is an effective treatment can also help ease any anxiety around monkeypox.”

The study, called Platinum, will involve 500 participants and will be given either a 14-day course of tecovirimat twice a day or a placebo treatment.

Participants will take treatment at their respective homes and eligible patients will be identified through testing positive for monkeypox.

The study is led by Sir Peter Hornby, Professor of Emerging Infections and Global Health at the University of Oxford, and Sir Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford Population Health, who was the principal investigator of the COVID-19 recovery trial.

Professor Sir Peter Hornby said monkeypox was a disturbing and sometimes dangerous infection and the trial would benefit current and future patients around the world.

“Although the initial data on tecovirimat is promising, only a randomized clinical trial will provide the level of evidence we need to treat patients with confidence. Platinum will provide that evidence,” he said.

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