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Finally there is hope for a long COVID treatment. This is what it is


Ensitrelvir, a new antiviral drug, has been shown to shorten the symptoms of mild to moderate COVID-19 and, in addition, has the potential to prevent long-term COVID-19, research has shown. Here’s everything you need to know about the drug, can it really prevent long-term COVID, and why the experts are still skeptical about it.

What is Ensitrelvir, drug that shortens COVID symptoms?

Ensitrelvir was developed by Shionogi in Osaka, Japan and they claim it shortens the symptoms of mild to moderate COVID-19 by about a day and reduces the number of days people test positive for coronavirus.

The trial data was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

The trial involved about 1,200 people and was designed to determine whether the drug could speed up recovery. Participants taking 125-milligram ensitrelvir pills recovered from five specific symptoms, such as coughing and low energy, about 24 hours earlier than those in the control group.

In addition, those taking the 125-milligram dose tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 about 29 hours earlier than those taking a placebo.

Can ensitrelvir cure long COVID?

The study suggests that ensitrelvir has the potential to prevent long-term COVID-19, a condition characterized by symptoms persisting beyond the acute phase of COVID-19.

Participants who had a relatively high number of symptoms during the early stages of the disease had a 14% risk of developing long-term COVID if they took the antiviral, compared to a 26% risk for similar participants in the placebo group.

However, scientists not involved in the study have expressed doubts about the design of the trial, pointing out, as reported by the scientific journal Nature, that it was not specifically designed to examine the risk of long-term COVID. This means that the pre-trial research plan does not describe methods for analyzing long COVID data.

While preliminary evidence suggests that the antiviral drug Paxlovid could prevent long-term COVID, no drug has been conclusively shown to reduce the risk of the condition. Scientists say it’s plausible that antivirals can prevent long-term COVID, but there’s no consensus on what causes the condition. Some researchers believe that long-standing COVID may be caused by the immune response to the virus rather than a persistent virus.

Ensitrelvir has been tested on people regardless of their risk of severe COVID-19, which may have implications for its use in low-risk individuals. The drug is the third oral antiviral to be developed for COVID-19, after Paxlovid and molnupiravir. Both drugs target people at high risk of serious disease, while ensitrelvir has been tested on people regardless of their risk. Data from the ensitrelvir trial has not yet been peer reviewed.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.