Cuba is using the humanized monoclonal antibody Itolizumab within the COVID-19 protocol for patients’ medical care to stop the so-called “cytokine storm,” an uncontrolled reaction of the immune system that can have fatal consequences.
The drug, which is commonly used to treat other conditions such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, has been used in 70 patients from nine Cuban hospitals, the director of Clinical Investigations of Cuba’s Molecular Immunology Center (CIM), Tania Crombet, affirmed to the daily Granma.
“It has been used in patients classified as critical, serious and care, with a high risk of aggravation. The best results have been seen in critically and seriously ill patients,” assured the doctor.
Scientific studies have linked this “cytokine storm” with hyper inflammation and the appearance of acute respiratory failure syndrome or adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which has been described as the leading cause of COVID-19 mortality.
The director of Clinical Investigations of the CIM, belonging to the BioCubaFarma Business Group, explained in the interview that the drug “can reduce the secretion of a group of mediators of the inflammation, known as pro-inflammatory cytokines.”
This, according to the specialist, would ultimately allow “stopping in time” the consequences of the cytokine storm, a potentially deadly defensive immune reaction.
“Itolizumab works in the phase of the disease where the damage is caused by the exaggerated response of the immune system to the enormous capacity of the virus to divide,” said the specialist.
She also assured that there are “clinical and imaging evidence of improvement of respiratory distress” in patients.
Dr. Crombet clarified that her team is immersed “in the data collection and interpretation stage, in order to draw definitive conclusions.”
Itolizumab, produced in Cuba since 2014, obtained that same year one of the National Awards of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, and in 2015 it was recognized with the Gold Medal of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), according to Granma.
The company Biocon is also developing and producing this drug in India, where it is mainly used to treat psoriasis patients, although its efficacy in combating coronavirus has also started being tested.
The coronavirus has so far left 1,804 infected in Cuba, 78 deceased and 1,277 recovered.