Icatibant- a drug used to treat a blood vessel condition called angioedema- has shown promise as a treatment for COVID-19 in lab experiments, researchers said.
Icatibant, sold as Firazyr by Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical, blocks a protein called bradykinin receptor b2 in the so-called kinin system.
The protein is regulated by the ACE2 protein on cell surfaces, which the coronavirus uses as a gateway for infection. When the researchers analyzed nasal cells obtained from newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients, they found elevated levels of bradykinin receptor b2, which led them to wonder whether blocking that protein with icatibant could protect the airway-lining cells against the coronavirus. “To our surprise, icatibant effectively reduced viral load by more than 90% and protected cultured human airway cells from cell death upon SARS-CoV-2-infection,” said Adam Chaker of Technical University of Munich, whose team reported their findings on Saturday in the Journal of Molecular Medicine Icatibant uses different biochemical pathways to protect the airways than steroids, the researchers found.
In their test tube experiments, repeated dosing of icatibant did not stop coronavirus infection completely, but reduced the severity of infection, they reported. Previous small observational studies have suggested that icatibant might provide some benefit to COVID-19 patients. Now, Chaker said, it is time for “double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials … conducted in high-risk patients and see potential to use icatibant as add-on treatment at early stages of infection.”