A NEW trial to find treatment for monkeypox has been launched by scientists at the University of Oxford.

They have become the first in the world to launch a clinical trial to assess a treatment of the disease in humans and want to find out whether an antiviral drug can help alleviate symptoms among those infected.

The researchers, who were behind the Covid Recovery trial, are hoping to recruit 500 people from around the UK to join the trial to test whether Tecovirimat – also known as Tpoxx – can help reduce the amount of time people are sick.

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The drug, which was created to treat smallpox, works by preventing the virus from leaving the infected cell, which stops the spread of the virus within the body.

Health officials in the UK licenced the drug earlier this year based on results from initial studies in animals and safety evidence from human volunteers.

It is currently offered to patients with severe complications who are being treated in hospital but to date there have been no clinical trials to confirm whether Tpoxx can help monkeypox patients recover from the disease.

The Platinum trial will be the first randomised controlled trial of a treatment for monkeypox: this means that half of the participants – who will have a confirmed diagnosis of monkeypox but not be poorly enough to need hospital care – will be given Tpoxx, while the other half will be given a placebo, or dummy drug.

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Most patients with monkeypox will be eligible to enrol to the trial, which will involve them taking the medication, or the placebo, twice a day for 14 days.

They will be followed up for a month to assess whether taking the drug reduces symptoms – including the length of time people have painful skin lesions – or whether it could reduce the amount of time people stay in isolation.

Sir Peter Horby, professor of emerging infections and global health at the university, said: “Monkeypox is a distressing and sometimes dangerous infection.

“For the benefit of current and future patients worldwide who have been diagnosed with monkeypox, we need definitive evidence that tecovirimat is safe and effective.

“Although the early data on tecovirimat are promising, only a randomised clinical trial will provide the level of evidence we need to treat patients with confidence. Platinum will provide that evidence.”

Professor Lucy Chappell, chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Care Research and chief scientific adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “This study is a very important next step towards looking at treatments for monkeypox for those being outside of hospital.

“It’s crucial that we invest in developing, refining and evaluating treatments for this disease.”

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers. 

Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.colivicchi@newsquest.co.uk

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