Scientists have developed a new injection that successfully improves the skin of eczema patients within a month.
The positive results came from a study conducted by Oxford University scientists, who tested the new medication, etokimab, on 12 patients with atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema.
Etokimab works by targeting a chemical in the immune system called IL-33, which fuels inflammation by recruiting immune cells to the site of damaged skin.
In the study, the patients first received a placebo, after which they were given small injections in the skin to challenge the immune system – another placebo in the left arm and a house dust mite, to which they were allergic, in the right.
The following week, patients received an intravenous dose of etokimab that was again followed by injections to challenge the immune system. Researchers obtained blister samples after each challenge before comparing them.
According to the findings, which were published in Science Translational Medicine, all 12 patients treated with etokimab showed a reduction in their physical symptoms of eczema after treatment, with their score on a scale of disease severity reducing by at least half.
Therapy that targets the immune system showed promise for treating atopic dermatitis – the most common form of eczema – in a small proof-of-concept trial led by our researcher Graham Ogg. Find out more about it on our website ⬇️ (📷by Mr Cody CC BY 2.0) https://t.co/00NkIrVE9y pic.twitter.com/Ji7VSA6KHk
— MRC HIU (@MRC_HIU) October 24, 2019
After 29 days, 83% achieved this improvement, and there was also a 40% reduction in eosinophils – a type of immune cell involved in allergic sensitivity – in the blood, the Institute of Molecular Medicine reports.
Discussing the results, Professor Graham Ogg, who worked on the study, said:
We have found [the patients] experienced significant improvement in their symptoms after a single dose.
The news is exciting for eczema sufferers, who are common in the UK. According to 2018 data from the British Skin Foundation, one in every five children is affected by eczema at some stage.
Atopic #eczema is a very common skin condition due to skin inflammation. It may start at any age but the onset is often in childhood. The main symptom is itch. Scratching in response to itch may cause many of the changes seen on the skin. https://t.co/1PZOkGBBUM #DiseaseoftheDay pic.twitter.com/PFTK2SB00o
— BSF charity (@BSFcharity) March 18, 2019
Its cause is not fully understood, though a number of factors appear important for its development, including patient susceptibility and environmental factors.
With atopic dermatitis, the skin is attacked from within the body rather than by an outside irritant, and affected skin is usually red, dry and itchy. Anti-inflammatory steroid creams are the most common treatment, though they can cause side effects such as nausea.
Most adults w/ moderate to severe atopic dermatitis have itching regularly. Hydrocortisone creams are an OTC option to offer your consumers. Learn more about Scapa’s topical formulation capabilities: https://t.co/eEmWP1Hrya #NationalEczemaAwarenessMonth @nationaleczema pic.twitter.com/Fx0vTrhTql
— Scapa Healthcare (@ScapaHealthcare) October 24, 2019
Dr Emma Wedgeworth, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, expressed her delight at the results.
According to iNews, she commented:
There is no doubt in my mind that targeted therapies like this are the future of treatment for severe eczema.
For so long, we have relied on strong general immunosuppressants to treat severe cases… The emergence of new therapies is hugely exciting for patients and clinicians alike.
Professor Ogg pointed out the results are ‘very preliminary’, but following the success of etokimab his team are now trialling the antibody treatment on 300 eczema sufferers.
Ogg added the researchers ‘look forward’ to discovering whether it works for a larger group of patients.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.