Breaking News: Can Colchicine Treat COVID-19?
Starting next week, scientists in the U.S. will use the drug Colchicine to treat COVID-19 (coronavirus) patients within hours of them being diagnosed. The goal is to stop them from developing some of the deadliest COVID-19 symptoms. Scientists at New York University School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, and the Montreal Heart Institute think Colchicine may reduce the excessive inflammatory reaction caused by coronavirus that leads to ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), multiple organ failure, and death (you can read the details of their study here).
Wait, What is Colchicine?
Colchicine is a drug that has been used in the U.S. since 1969. It is an inexpensive and widely-available anti-inflammatory medicine commonly used to treat gout, reduce effects of Mediterranean fever, and treat the blood vessel inflammation disorder Bechet’s disease.
So How Could Colchicine Treat COVID-19?
When you are infected with coronavirus, your immune system sends immune chemicals to the compromised areas in your lungs to fight the infection, which is what helps you recover. But in some cases, your immune system overreacts creating a “cytokine storm,” which means too many immune chemicals are being made. The lungs become congested, which in turn causes severe breathing problems and pneumonia. This can also inflame the heart, liver and kidneys which may lead to additional serious complications, even multiple organ failure and death.
“The anti-inflammatory effects of colchicine may prevent this cytokine storm, and limit the damage to other organs such as the heart, brain and kidney,” said Dr. Priscilla Hsue, a medical professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and principal investigator in the trial. “We suspect that early treatment, before the onset of severe symptoms requiring hospitalization, may provide the best chance to improve outcomes. By the time extensive lung damage has developed, it may be too late to intervene successfully.”
Is Colchicine Approved by the FDA?
Yes, it is. Colchicine is widely available and FDA approved. It is used primarily to prevent or treat gout attacks (gout is a kind of arthritis caused by buildup of uric acid in the body; it can cause sudden burning pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints, including the knee, ankle joints, or big toe). When treating gout, Colchicine decreases swelling and lessens the buildup of uric acid crystals. Colchicine also prevents pain in the abdomen, chest, or joints caused by familial Mediterranean fever. It is also used to treat Bechet’s disease, which causes blood vessel inflammation throughout the body.
What Happens Next?
Although the study shows promise, we will need to wait for definitive results from the coronavirus patients who will receive Colchicine starting next week. If Colchicine decreases the “cytokine storm,” it could be a game-changer in the fight against COVID-19.
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