Asthma inhalers are designed to keep attacks in check, but a trial by Queensland University of Technology and Oxford University researchers believe inhalers could also be used to treat COVID-19.
They are focused on its potential impact early in the infection and if using a corticosteroid inhaler could lead to fewer emergency department presentations and hospital admissions.
Somewhat unexpectedly, it has been noted that only small numbers of asthmatics and people with the chronic lung disease COPD have been found among the seriously ill in the early stages of the pandemic.
Lead Researcher Associate Professor Nicolau said “This seemed paradoxical because COVID-19 affects the lungs – and these patients have lung problems – so they should be more at risk of severe disease from the virus.
“One explanation for the low numbers was that something these people were doing regularly was protecting them and that, logically, was that they routinely used inhalers for their chronic lung problems.”
He added, “Ideally it may be that the corticosteroid therapy would be given to anyone with a new, dry cough, and while they are awaiting their COVID test results.”
Modelling by the research team indicates that the earlier people are given the inhaler, the less likely they are to become sick.
The clinical trial has been registered under the name of STOIC (STerOids In COVID-19). About 500 people are needed for the trial and recruitment is already underway at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.