Covid lessons to help £2.9m trial finding treatments for severe flu

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trial will use lessons from the pandemic to help quickly find treatments for severe flu, as experts predict there could be record numbers of cases this year.

The £2.9 million REMAP-CAP trial, originally set up to tackle the pandemic, will work with the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to recruit children and adults admitted to hospital with severe flu from 150 hospitals across the UK over the next two years.

It is exactly two years since the trial showed how in Covid-19 reducing inflammation with the drug tocilizumab can save lives in severely ill patients.

The trial is designed to provide answers quickly by using a rapid approach to test multiple treatments at the same time in thousands of people.

Professor Anthony Gordon, chief investigator of the new trial, from Imperial College London’s Department of Surgery and Cancer, said: “During the pandemic, our trial was able to rapidly respond to a new virus and our approach helped save lives.

“We’re now redeploying it against a known threat.

“Flu is very infectious and can make children, the elderly and vulnerable people seriously unwell in some cases.

“This winter, we might see more flu cases than usual as the virus potentially resurges after pandemic measures have kept levels low.

“We hope that our trial will help to find urgently needed flu treatments rapidly.

“Our Covid-19 trial changed clinical practice globally, and we hope we can impact flu treatment and reduce winter pressures on the NHS in the same way.”

Among the treatments that will be tested are the anti-viral oseltamivir (also known as Tamiflu) and baloxavir, as well as steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs found to be effective against Covid.

Dr Elizabeth Whittaker, a consultant in paediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Flu can be a very serious illness for some children, in some cases leading to hospitalisation and problems like bronchitis and pneumonia.

“Getting the free spray flu vaccine is our first line of defence and drastically reduces the risks for children. But we also need more treatments to help those children who do become very ill, which is why this trial is so important.

“Working with a range of experts across the country, we hope to determine the best treatments for flu and ultimately save lives.”

The trial is funded by the NIHR and delivered by its Clinical Research Network.

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