An arthritis drug may better the conditions of severely ill coronavirus patients, a new small study suggests.
Researchers found more that than 70 percent treated with anakinra, sold under the brand name Kineret, showed improvements in breathing and reduced signs of inflammation.
The team, from San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, Italy, says its findings are the first to suggest that the drug works - but that randomized controlled trials are needed to fully understand the medication's effectiveness.
Scientists are racing to test both existing medicines and experimental therapies in the hope that something will help alter the course of the global pandemic.
In the case of anakinra, experts say that although the results of the study are interesting, it is far too early to say whether or not the drug works.
Researchers tested 29 Italian coronavirus patients with anakinra (pictured), an arthritis drug, and compared them to 16 control patients
In the study, 72% showed improved respiratory health and reduced signs of cytokine storms, which occur when the body attacks not just the virus but its own cells. Pictured: A man arrives by ambulance from a hospital in New York City, April 25
In the control groups, respiratory function improved for just half of the patients and 56% survived, compared to 90% of the anakinra group. Pictured: EMS paramedics bring Zully, a COVID-19 patient, home by ambulance from Stamford Hospital in Connecticut, April 25
'Until a vaccine is available, we urgently need to find a way to help people survive the most severe symptoms of COVID-19, and to do that without overwhelming the intensive care capacity of hospital,' said Dr Lorenzo Dagna, head of the immunology, rheumatology, allergy and rare diseases unit at San Raffaele Hospital.
'A treatment that has already met strict safety tests and that is available in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of the current pandemic is ideal.'
Anakinra belongs to a class of drugs called