AI discovers old arthritis medication that helps the elderly survive COVID-19

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November 18, 2020
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An old arthritis medicine can potentially reduce the risk of dying in older COVID-19 patients, says a new study conducted by AI.

Baricitinib, a once-daily medicine used by arthritis patients, was first identified as being helpful to corona patients by a London-based start-up, BenevolentAI. They used an AI bot to sift through scientific reading material and find medicines that might block the infection process of the virus. The bot predicted that baricitinib could stop the infection from entering the lung cells.

The study has shown the drugs have reduced deaths by 71 percent.

Sceientist from Imperial College London and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden gave the medication to 83 people with a median age of 81. They found that the mortality rate of the people receiving the medication as opposed to those that weren’t was down by 71 percent; also, only 17 percent of the patients on baricitinib died or required ventilators compared to the 32 percent in those that received standard care.

The study then concluded that the medication could reduce the organ damage done by virus as well as stop the virus from entering human cells.

We urgently need to find more effective treatments for COVID-19 while we wait for a vaccine to become widely available, said Justin Stebbing, a co-lead of the study. “This is one of the first COVID-19 treatments to go from computer to clinic and laboratory.”

The study will now be followed by large-scale clinical trials.

The full research paper can be read here, in the scientific journal named Science Advances.

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