SEP 08, 2022 11:15 AM PDT

Tired of Long COVID? A new drug shows promise to combat fatigue caused by long COVID

WRITTEN BY: J. Bryce Ortiz

If you are reading this, chances are you have had COVID; unless you are one of the few “super dodgers” who have yet to catch it. While the initial sickness caused by COVID-19 infection is bad enough, it is now clear that the lingering effects of COVID can persist for weeks to months after the original infection. These post-COVID symptoms, often called long-COVID, can be severely debilitating. 

Long-COVID has a long list of symptoms including blood clots and other blood vessel issues, diarrhea, chest pain, tachycardia, and heart palpitations. The most commonly reported symptoms are difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, fever, and fatigue. Altogether, the symptoms from long-COVID have been shown to lead to mental distress, suicidal ideation, and can exacerbate underlying mental health disorders. 

While many of the long-COVID symptoms pose problems that can affect functioning in daily life, doctors and scientists have been working to understand the effects of one symptom in particular: fatigue. A recent study in eClinicalMedicine, found that fatigue and post-exertional malaise (i.e. the worsening of symptoms after minor physical or mental exertion) were the most prominent symptoms at month 6 of long-COVID. Interestingly, out of 1700 patients surveyed in the study, 45.2% of individuals required reduced working hours due to fatigue and an additional 22.3% were no longer able to work due to long-COVID induced fatigue. Another study published last week in the journal nature confirmed these findings in a smaller population.  

Clearly fatigue from long-COVID is a pressing public health concern, and research studies into the causes and treatments for long-COVID fatigue are ongoing. While drug discovery and development on treating the symptoms from long-COVID has had a slow start, a new promising drug to combat long-COVID is currently being used in a large clinical trial. And the preliminary results from the clinical trial are promising. 

Early last month, the U.S.-based Biotech company, Axcella Therapeutics, announced some results from an ongoing clinical study on their drug AXA1125. The drug is an orally active mixture of amino acids that is designed to improve mitochondrial function, bioenergetics, and inflammation. For the preliminary findings, Axcella reported that 41 patients with long-COVID fatigue were randomized into groups and either received AXA1125 treatment twice daily for 28 days or a placebo drug. At the end of 28 days, the subjects then underwent moderate exercise and cognitive tests. The important findings were that subjects who received AXA1125 showed significant improvements in physical and cognitive scores. In other words, people who were administered AXA1125 showed decreased physical and cognitive fatigue compared to individuals given placebo.

One of the lead researchers for the study, Dr. Betty Raman from the University of Oxford, said, “The statistically significant improvement in reported mental and physical fatigue among study participants receiving AXA1125 is a very encouraging finding for Long COVID patients, who often experience extreme and constant fatigue throughout their day.” The clinical trial on AXA1125 is ongoing and final results will include more subjects. But these preliminary results are promising for individuals suffering from the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection.


Sources: Washington PostCDCMayo ClinicThe GuardianLabrootsThe Lancetnature communicationsnaturenatureAxcella

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Science and medical writer | Researcher | Interested in the intersection between translational science, drug development, and policy
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