Th study showed that metformin, a medication that is safe, low-cost, and widely available, substantially reduces the risk of being diagnosed with long Covid if taken when first infected with the coronavirus (Representative Image: iStock)
According to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, a two-week treatment of metformin, an affordable and safe medication used for diabetes, following a positive Covid test, could potentially reduce the risk of long Covid by 40% over the following 10 months.
The study specifically selected participants who were over 30 years old, had a higher susceptibility to severe Covid-19 due to being overweight or obese and had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 within the previous three days, without any prior Covid infection.
Conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota, United States, the study enrolled a total of 1,126 participants between December 2020 and January 2022.
These participants were randomly assigned to receive either metformin or an identical placebo pill after testing positive for Covid.
Follow-up data was collected through questionnaires every 30 days over the course of 10 months as part of the study.
The findings revealed that among the participants, 6.3% (35 out of 564) of those who received metformin reported being diagnosed with long Covid during the follow-up period.
In contrast, 10.4% (58 out of 562) of the individuals who received the placebo reported the same diagnosis.
The study also highlighted that prior research had demonstrated that the diabetes medication had a preventive effect, reducing emergency department visits, hospitalisations, and deaths related to Covid by 40% within two weeks of starting the treatment, in comparison to a placebo.
Long Covid, a condition characterised by long-term symptoms experienced by individuals who have had Covid, continues to be an emerging chronic illness affecting potentially millions of people worldwide.
Currently, there are no proven treatments or preventive measures for long Covid, apart from mitigating the initial infection itself.
“Long Covid is a significant public health emergency that may have lasting physical health, mental health, and economic impacts, especially in socioeconomically marginalised groups. “Our study showed that metformin, a medication that is safe, low-cost, and widely available, substantially reduces the risk of being diagnosed with long Covid if taken when first infected with the coronavirus,” said first author Carolyn Bramante, University of Minnesota Medical School.
However, Bramante clarified that their study did not provide evidence regarding the effectiveness of metformin in treating patients who are already experiencing long Covid symptoms.
“Previous studies have found that metformin stops the SARS-CoV-2 virus from replicating in the lab, which is consistent with predictions from our mathematical modelling of viral replication, so that might be what is causing the reduction in both severe Covid-19 and Long Covid diagnoses seen in this trial,” said co-author David Odde, University of Minnesota biomedical engineer.
In other aspects of the trial, the effectiveness of ivermectin and fluvoxamine in preventing long Covid was investigated, but neither medication was found to be effective.
The authors of the study noted that there are limitations to their research. Specifically, the trial excluded individuals who were not overweight or obese, as well as those younger than 30 years old. Therefore, it remains unclear whether the findings can be generalised to these populations.