The diabetes drug metformin could prevent long covid, but it’s unclear whether it can also treat the disease in people who already have it.
An estimated 65 million people worldwide are suffering from some degree of prolonged covid, which can involve chronic fatigue, brain fog, heart and lung problems, and loss of taste and smell, among other issues.
With preventative drugs and other treatment options limited, Carolyn Bramante at the University of Minnesota and her colleagues tested the potential of several therapies, including metformin, which is commonly used to control blood sugar in people with diabetes mellitus. type 2 and which has proven to be effective. limit the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the laboratory.
The team examined 1,126 people, aged 30 to 85, who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the past three days. They were all overweight or obese, which can increase the risk of severe covid-19, but they did not need hospital care for the infection.
Participants were randomized to receive a range of potential treatments, including combinations of metformin, the antiparasitic drug ivermectin, the antidepressant fluvoxamine or a placebo. At a 10-month follow-up, 6.3% of those who took metformin had been diagnosed with long covid, compared to 10.4% on placebo, suggesting the drug prevented 41% of long covid cases in the trial. Neither ivermectin nor fluvoxamine reduced the risk.
Although metformin may prevent long-covid in people who are overweight or obese and who have mild SARS-CoV-2 infection, the potential of the drug in other groups, or as a long-term treatment, n is not clear.
Grace McComsey, who leads the long covid RECOVER study at University Hospitals Health System in Cleveland, Ohio, says the latest research is encouraging. “A 40% decrease is quite impressive, especially considering that most of the study population was fully vaccinated and already at lower risk of contracting long covid,” she says.
Metformin can work both as an anti-inflammatory and by reducing the viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in an infected person’s body, she says. If it’s an antiviral, metformin “could potentially work for treating those who have long covid,” McComsey says.