Respir Res. 2022 Dec 24;23(1):375. doi: 10.1186/s12931-022-02278-1.
We recently reported in the phase 3 PANAMO trial that selectively blocking complement 5a (C5a) with vilobelimab led to improved survival in critically ill COVID-19 patients. C5a is an important contributor to the innate immune system and can also activate the coagulation system. High C5a levels have been reported in severely ill COVID-19 patients and correlate with disease severity and mortality. Previously, we assessed the potential benefit and safety of vilobelimab in severe COVID-19 patients. In the current substudy of the phase 2 PANAMO trial, we aim to explore the effects of vilobelimab on various biomarkers of inflammation and coagulation. Between March 31 and April 24, 2020, 17 patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia were enrolled in an exploratory, open-label, randomised phase 2 trial. Blood markers of complement, endothelial activation, epithelial barrier disruption, inflammation, neutrophil activation, neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) formation and coagulopathy were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or utilizing the Luminex platform. During the first 15 days after inclusion, change in biomarker concentrations between the two groups were modelled with linear mixed-effects models with spatial splines and compared. Eight patients were randomized to vilobelimab treatment plus best supportive care (BSC) and nine patients were randomized to BSC only. A significant decrease over time was seen in the vilobelimab plus BSC group for C5a compared to the BSC only group (p < 0.001). ADAMTS13 levels decreased over time in the BSC only group compared to the vilobelimab plus BSC group (p < 0.01) and interleukin-8 (IL-8) levels were statistically more suppressed in the vilobelimab plus BSC group compared to the BSC group (p = 0.03). Our preliminary results show that C5a inhibition decreases the inflammatory response and hypercoagulability, which likely explains the beneficial effect of vilobelimab in severe COVID-19 patients. Validation of these results in a larger sample size is warranted.