Treating MIS-C with Phase 3 Celiac Drug

June 15, 2021

Even after a COVID-19 infection has passed, SARS-CoV-2 particles may linger in the gut and make their way into the bloodstream. This often triggers a cytokine storm and hyper-inflammatory response (MIS-C) within multiple areas of the body. These include the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and GI organs. 

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation focuses on the role of SARS-CoV-2 particles in the gut as the root cause of MIS-C weeks to months after a COVID-19 infection. The study tested the stool of 100 children, 19 of which had MIS-C and 26 who tested positive for a COVID-19 infection. 55 children served as healthy controls. 

18 of the 19 children who developed MIS-C had high levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their stool. They also presented with high levels of zonulin, a protein that regulates the permeability of the digestive tract. “Increased circulating zonulin levels resulting in increased intestinal permeability have been reported in several diseases including auto-immune and hyper-inflammatory diseases such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and Kawasaki disease.” 

Investigators obtained permission to treat one patient with Larazotide – a zonulin antagonist that strengthens the gut barrier and is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials for use in celiac patients. “Inhibition of intestinal permeability in a patient with MIS-C prevents SARS-CoV-2 antigens from trafficking into the bloodstream, conferring clinical benefit by addressing the underlying trigger for MIS-C rather than just the inflammatory consequences.” Researchers from this study are planning to conduct a clinical trial using Larazotide to treat MIS-C. They will use this as a starting point for the development of an effective treatment or even prophylaxis for COVID-19 infections amongst children.