A drug that was approved by U.S. regulators more than 70 years ago may help protect against two major COVID-19 symptoms, according to a new study.
Disulfiram, approved to treat alcoholism, protected rodents infected with COVID-19 from lung injury in the preclinical study done by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Certain white blood cells called neutrophils form inside some people suffering from COVID-19, damaging the lungs. No drugs have yet been found to prevent this from happening, researchers said.
Disulfiram, though, dramatically reduced the formation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NET), which cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs and sometimes lead to blood clots.
Researchers dosed the mice with disulfiram a day before and three hours after infecting them with the virus that causes COVID-19. Some 95 percent of those mice survived, compared to 40 percent not treated with the drug.
“As we learn more about the underlying biology of these lung injuries, we may be able to specifically target the processes that are damaging the lung tissue,” Dr. Robert Schwartz, an associate professor of medicine in the gastroenterology and hepatology division at Weill Cornell Medicine, said in a statement.
“Currently there aren’t any good treatment options for COVID-related lung injury, so disulfiram appears to be worth investigating further in this regard, particularly in severe COVID-19 patients."
The new study was funded by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center and the Pershing Square Foundation, among other institutions.