AI bot finds arthritis drug that slashes Covid death risk ‘by 71% among elderly’

An AI has discovered an arthritis drug that slashes the risk of elderly people dying of coronavirus by 71%, say researchers.

Its algorithm flagged the drug Baricitnib – used to treat rheumatoid arthritis – after trawling through scientific databases.

Tests on 83 patients with Covid-19 across Spain and Italy revealed it slashed the risk of dying from the virus, the Times reports.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found the proportion of those who died or needed to be put on a ventilator fell from 35% to 17% for those given the drug.

Baricitnib was identified as potentially having anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects by using artificial intelligence to search scientific databases.

Volker Lauschke, a professor at Karolinska Institutet and a lead author of the study, said: "This confirms what AI predicted, and what we were hearing from patient case reports.

"One case involved an 87-year-old severely unwell patient from Foggia, Italy, who showed rapid improvement after being given the drug, whereas her husband and son, who did not receive baricitinib, died."

Justin Stebbing, co-lead author of the study from Imperial, said: "The study suggests this drug can aid recovery of patients with moderate to severe Covid-19.

"Large-scale clinical trials of this drug, to further investigate its potential, are now under way."

The researchers also carried out experiments on miniature, lab-grown human organs, which revealed that the drug may reduce organ damage caused by inflammation, and block the virus from entering cells.

The study is published in the journal Science Advances.

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