Ireland’s first Covid-19 treatment trial reveals potential of AAT

24 Mar 2022

Image: © Valerii/

The Irish study is the first of its kind to use the protein AAT in the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Researchers have published the results of Ireland’s first clinical trial of a medicine for Covid-19, showing promising results for a new treatment option.

The study conducted by researchers at the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and Beaumont Hospital in Dublin suggests that the anti-inflammatory protein alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) could be an effective treatment for critically ill Covid-19 patients.

The randomised controlled trial used AAT to treat patients whose condition had progressed to develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This highly inflammatory state leads to airway damage, respiratory failure and increased risk of death.

“We know that patients who are critically ill with Covid-19 are more prone to developing severe inflammation throughout the body, with a disproportionately high rate of progression to ARDS and other serious respiratory issues,” said Dr Oliver McElvaney, the study’s co-lead author.

“We think AAT might be able to provide some protection against the more harmful types of inflammation that arise in severe Covid-19 and other conditions with a similar inflammatory profile.”

There are currently limited treatment options for ARDS, and the RCSI and Beaumont Hospital study is the first randomised control trial of AAT for this condition.

AAT is naturally produced by the liver and works to protect the lungs. In this trial, researchers used purified AAT from healthy donors.

The results indicated that treatment with AAT led to decreased inflammation after one week. The study also found that the treatment was safe and well tolerated, and did not interfere with patients’ ability to generate their own protective response to Covid-19.

“These early results are encouraging and will, we hope, form the basis for a larger trial to see how much of an effect reducing inflammation using AAT has on clinical outcomes such as mortality,” said Prof Gerry McElvaney, senior author on the paper.

The study was published in the journal Med.

St James’s Hospital in Dublin also collaborated on the trial.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.