Study: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy may Improve Cognitive Function in Long COVID


There are few treatments available for long COVID symptoms, but on Tuesday, Florida-based Aviv Clinics reported data from a study that suggests hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) may alleviate some of these associated issues, particularly those associated with cognition. 

HBOT is a treatment typically used to speed up healing from carbon monoxide poisoning, wounds that won't heal, or to target tissues starved for oxygen due to infection.

Data from the study, published in Scientific Reports, showed that patients treated with HBOT saw "significant improvement in their global cognitive function." Additionally, the data showed HBOT demonstrated "cognitive improvement related to their specific damaged brain regions responsible for attention and executive function." HBOT patients also saw improvements in sleep, energy levels and pain-related issues. The clinic reported that patients in the control group who received a placebo did not see these benefits. 

"The beneficial effects of the unique treatment protocol can be attributed to neuroplasticity and increased brain perfusion in regions associated with cognitive and emotional roles," Aviv Clinics said in its announcement. 

Amir Hadanny, chief researcher and head of global clinical operations at Aviv Clinics, said there are millions of people across the globe who continue to grapple with the symptoms of long COVID. Many of these symptoms are debilitating and can last for weeks and even months. 

"Until today, no effective therapy has been suggested. Our research is the first randomized controlled trial to demonstrate a real solution for the long haulers," Hadanny said in a statement.

New data suggests that nearly one in five people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus will experience "long COVID," defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as symptoms lasting three or more months after first contracting the virus.

In June, the CDC announced that 19% of adults infected with COVID continue to experience disease symptoms. Despite that high number, it remains challenging to determine who may develop this issue. There are no tests to diagnose long COVID, and the symptoms can vary significantly, including fatigue, persistent cough, difficulty breathing, brain fog, pain, and more.

However, recent data has suggested there may be biomarkers in the blood that are associated with long COVID. As BioSpace previously reported, a small study of patients with persistent symptoms revealed that 65% had detectable levels of viral antigens in their plasma samples. The most common antigen was the spike protein associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The study notes that the spike protein is not found in the plasma of patients not suffering from long COVID. 

To be sure, other companies are working on different therapeutic approaches to long COVID, including Axcella Health, and PureTech.

Axcella is assessing AXA1125, a multi-targeted endogenous metabolic modulator (EMM) composition, in a Phase IIa study for long COVID. Topline data is expected in the third quarter of this year. In May, Axcella Chief Medical Officer Margaret Koziel said the company believes mitochondrial dysfunction is a key driver of long COVID-induced fatigue. Preclinical and clinical data indicate that AXA1125 may have an important impact.

While Axcella awaits its mid-stage results, last month, Boston-based PureTech announced its long COVID therapeutic LYT-100-COV (deupirfenidone), an anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic agent, failed to hit the mark in a Phase II study. 

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