UB researchers testing melatonin's effect on mild to moderate COVID-19

Posted at 1:37 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 07:55:42-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A team of researchers at the University at Buffalo has been approved to test melatonin as a treatment for COVID-19 patients.

The team plans to begin recruiting patients for the clinical trial by October 1st. To be eligible, patients must have tested positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms mild enough that they can be treated at home.

“If we demonstrate that it is effective in COVID-19, it will be a benefit because you can treat a large population of COVID-19 affected patients,” said Margarita Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

The study will include 30 patients, 20 of whom will receive melatonin and 10 of whom will receive placebo for two weeks. The study is double-blind, meaning neither the subjects nor the people administering the drug know who is getting melatonin and who is getting placebo.

Researchers will follow patients for six weeks and use the data from these patients to help determine whether melatonin is safe for COVID-19 patients, and whether it is effective at lessening symptoms.

"We have to wait to see that it works. the last thing we want is people starting to use it. It’s even more important to make sure it’s safe and also effective,” said Sanjay Sethi, MD, Chief, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Sethi says they’ll know by the end of the year if melatonin works and if it does, people can start using it by the middle of next year. He says this does not mean people should go to the store stock up on melatonin.

And if this does work, doctors say it could help a lot of people, especially those in under-served areas since it’s low cost and many of us already have melatonin in our medicine cabinets.

Previous research shows melatonin can:

  • decrease molecules that create inflammation
  • increase and boost the immune system
  • be an antioxidant

Researchers are hoping to find an "inexpensive, widely available treatment" for people with mild to moderate coronavirus. They say many of the treatments already out there are targeted to more severe cases, whereas this one is for mild cases.

This melatonin-based research has been approved under an Investigational New Drug Approval provisionally granted by the FDA, because of this Dr. Dubocovich this study is one of a kind.

Anyone interested in participating in the study can sign up here once the trial is open for enrollment.