The doping drug EPO seems to ease severe corona cases, this is what researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen, Germany, have now discovered.
The drug that was originally intended as a cure for anemia might also be able to protect patients from neurological side effects once the SARS Cov-2 virus attacks the brain. The initial case studies were already very positive. The researchers are now starting a randomized clinical trial to systematically investigate the effects of EPO treatment in COVID-19 patients.
In one case study at the end of March, a patient with severe COVID-19 symptoms was admitted to an Iranian hospital. Because the patient also had poor blood values, the doctors prescribed EPO. Seven days after the start of treatment, the patient was able to leave the hospital.
Also another indication of the protective role of EPO in the case of COVID-19 comes from South America, where severe illness is rarer in higher-lying regions than in the lowlands. This may be because people living at higher altitudes form more EPO and are better adapted to oxygen deficiency because they have more red blood cells.
“As a result,” the researchers write, “breathing improves when there is an oxygen deficiency. EPO also has an anti-inflammatory effect on immune cells and could thus attenuate the frequently exaggerated immune response in COVID-19 patients.”
Dr Hannelore Ehrenreich thinks that EPO could help by ensuring milder disease progression. She is a scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine and has been researching the effect of the endogenous growth factor for over 30 years and suspects a connection between the administration of EPO and the mild illness progression.