Reducing mortality and morbidity in patients with severe COVID-19 disease by advancing ongoing trials of Mesenchymal Stromal (stem) Cell (MSC) therapy — Achieving global consensus and visibility for cellular host-directed therapies

Alimuddin Zumla, Fu Sheng Wang, Chao Chang, Giuseppe Ippolito, Nicola Petrosillo, Chiara Agrati, Esam I. Azhar, Sherif A. El-Kafrawy, Mohamed Osman, Laurence Zitvogel, Peter R. Galle, Franco Locatelli, Ellen Gorman, Cecilia O'Kane, Danny McAuley, Carlos Cordon-Cardo, Markus Maeurer

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

Abstract

As of May 17th 2020, the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused 307,395 deaths worldwide, out of 3,917,366 cases reported to the World Health Organization. No specific treatments for reducing mortality or morbidity are yet available. Deaths from COVID-19 will continue to rise globally until effective and appropriate treatments and/or vaccines are found. In search of effective treatments, the global medical, scientific, pharma and funding communities have rapidly initiated over 500 COVID-19 clinical trials on a range of antiviral drug regimens and repurposed drugs in various combinations. A paradigm shift is underway from the current focus of drug development targeting the pathogen, to advancing cellular Host-Directed Therapies (HDTs) for tackling the aberrant host immune and inflammatory responses which underlie the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 and high COVID-19 mortality rates. We focus this editorial specifically on the background to, and the rationale for, the use and evaluation of mesenchymal stromal (Stem) cells (MSCs) in treatment trials of patients with severe COVID-19 disease. Currently, the ClinicalTrials.gov and the WHO Clinical Trials Registry Platform (WHO ICTRP) report a combined 28 trials exploring the potential of MSCs or their products for treatment of COVID-19. MSCs should also be trialed for treatment of other circulating WHO priority Blueprint pathogens such as MERS-CoV which causes upto 34% mortality rates. It's about time funding agencies invested more into development MSCs per se, and also for a range of other HDTs, in combination with other therapeutic interventions. MSC therapy could turn out to be an important contribution to bringing an end to the high COVID-19 death rates and preventing long-term functional disability in those who survive disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-439
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume96
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 17 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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