COVID-19 treatment trialed at Leicester’s Hospitals shown to reduce deaths in sickest patients by one-fifth

A treatment for COVID-19 that was trialed at Leicester’s Hospitals has been shown to reduce deaths for hospitalised patients by one-fifth in people who have not developed natural antibodies against the virus.

The latest results from the RECOVERY trial for a ‘monoclonal antibody combination’ developed by Regeneron also showed that the length of time in hospital for patients on the treatment reduced by an average of 4 days, compared to those who received a standard treatment package.

The findings are released today (Friday) as the NHS marks #Red4Research, highlighting and supporting the research teams collectively working to develop new diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19.

Professor Chris Brightling, a respiratory consultant at Leicester’s Hospitals, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Leicester, and principal investigator for the study, said: “If a patient goes into hospital and a test shows they haven’t got any antibodies against COVID-19, then giving this combination of antibodies reduces their chances of dying by a fifth.

“Unlike other treatments we have for COVID-19 that address the symptoms of the disease, such as inflammation of the airways, this medicine directly tackles the virus itself.

“It is another weapon in the armoury against COVID-19 that could benefit our sickest patients, and once again shows the power of collaborative international research like the RECOVERY trial to answer our most pressing health challenges during a pandemic.”

Seventy-three patients at Leicester’s Hospitals received the monoclonal antibody combination.

John Bryan, 27, from Shepshed was hospitalised with COVID-19 in February 2021 after mild cold-like symptoms got progressively worse. John spent a week on the high dependency unit at Glenfield Hospital, where he was given oxygen through a ‘CPAP’ breathing aid that pushes an oxygen-air mix continuously into the lungs.

He said: “I was scared and thinking about my partner Daniella, and our little girl, Dolly, and how they would be coping on their own.”

John Bryan enjoying time in the garden with daughter Dolly.

John, a self-employed roofer, was approached by a research nurse to take part in the RECOVERY trial, where he was assigned the Regeneron monoclonal antibody combination. The treatment was delivered through an intravenous drip, which took about an hour to enter his body.

He said: “The day after having the treatment I came off the CPAP and within two days I felt ten times better.” John was discharged a few days later.

He added: “I just wanted to try anything that might help me get better quicker, because I felt really, really awful. It’s definitely worth taking part in research. Even if it doesn’t benefit you directly, the answers from it may be helpful for someone else in future.”

It took a further month after leaving hospital for John to feel ‘100 percent better’. He is now looking forward to growing his business and planning some family holidays.

The RECOVERY trial has so far shown that dexamethasone and tocilizumab have a significant effect on improving patient outcomes. These treatments have since been given as standard of care to patients presenting with COVID-19 in NHS hospitals. Just as importantly, it has shown that hydroxychloroquine, aspirin, colchicine, azithromycin and convalescent plasma do not have a significant effect on patients hospitalised with the disease.

Since April 2020, over 29,000 people have taken part in COVID-19 research with Leicester’s Hospitals across 39 studies classed as Urgent Public Health priority research by the Department of Health and Social Care. Over 1,300 of these patients were enrolled into the RECOVERY trial.