Kidney transplant recipient shielding from Covid backs tapeworm drug trial

Ben playing for WTWFC in the Peterborough and District League

Ben Baylis, the secretary and player and Wisbech Town Walking Football Club, had a kidney transplant two years ago. - Credit: Supplied by Kidney Research UK

Kidney patients are invited to take part in a clinical trial to find out if a tapeworm drug can protect them from Covid-19, and a Wisbech transplant recipient is backing the research.

The drug, called niclosamide, has shown promise in laboratory studies and scientists believe it could also prevent kidney patients from contracting Covid-19, over and above the vaccine.

Patients on dialysis, kidney transplant recipients and those who suffer an auto-immune condition affecting the kidneys are at serious risk of Covid-19.

Statistics show that one in five patients receiving dialysis treatment in hospital, or have had a kidney transplant, died within four weeks of testing positive for the virus.

Ben Baylis, the secretary and a player at Wisbech Town Walking Football Club is well aware of the risks.

His father died of kidney disease when he was nine, and Ben also had a kidney transplant two years ago.

At the moment, he is shielding and says he only feels safe because he lives in the rural location.

Wisbech Town Walking Football Club pictured at the FA Peoples Cup 2019

Before Covid: Ben (2nd from left) with his team mates at Wisbech Town Walking Football Club in the FA Peoples Cup 2019. They were Cambridgeshire Regional Champions. - Credit: Supplied by Kidney Research UK

Ben said: “Covid is not going away any time soon and if it gives protection and much needed peace of mind then this research will be vital for people.”

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He added: “I’m aware I am lucky.

“I am retired, living in a house with a lovely big garden in a remote location, so in lockdown I could garden, walk the dogs, run around the garden to keep fit.

“I don’t have the financial pressures of a younger man with small children, concerned not just for health but also finances.

“I am also aware that if I was a high-shielder living in a city, I would not have been so relaxed.”

Niclosamide is usually taken in tablet form to treat intestinal worms. For the clinical trial, it will be re-formulated into a nasal spray.

The trial will begin in Cambridge and will hopefully roll out across the UK. 

It is being led by scientists from the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Cambridge and is expected to last for nine months. 

Professor Jeremy Hughes, a kidney doctor and chair of trustees at Peterborough-based Kidney Research UK, one of the trial's funders, explained around 64,000 people receive dialysis treatment or have had a kidney transplant. This is enough to fill the O2 stadium three times over.

He said: “The vaccine roll-out can’t come fast enough - kidney patients should have the vaccine, as soon as they are offered it.

"We hope this trial will add an extra layer of protection for kidney patients in the future. 

“It could even reveal a way to prevent Covid-19 in other vulnerable people.”

Jeremy Hughes

Professor Jeremy Hughes, chair of trustees at Peterborough-based Kidney Research UK. - Credit: Supplied by Kidney Research UK

Dr Rona Smith, an honorary consultant nephrologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital who is leading the trial, stressed kidney patients should still have the vaccine. 

She said: “But we believe testing niclosamide is particularly important for people who are immunosuppressed and have kidney disease, because their immune responses to vaccines can sometimes be less effective.

"While the vaccine will offer a level of protection, niclosamide may provide further protection against Covid-19 that doesn’t rely on the immune system mounting a response.”

She added: "If successful, our innovative trial could mean that the treatment becomes available to kidney patients more widely within months."

Kidney patients interested in taking part in the trial should speak directly to their nephrologist.