Efficacy and Safety of Inhaled Ethanol in Early-Stage SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Older Adults: A Phase II Randomized Clinical Trial

Pharmaceutics. 2023 Feb 16;15(2):667. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics15020667.


Background: Inhaled ethanol in the early stages of SARS-CoV-2 infection may reduce the viral load, decreasing progression and improving prognosis. The ALCOVID-19 trial was designed to study the efficacy and safety of inhaled ethanol in older adults at initial phases of infection.

Methods: Randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled phase II clinical trial. Experimental group (n = 38) inhaled 65° ethanol through an oxygen flow, while in the control group (n = 37), water for injection was used. General endpoint was to evaluate disease progression according to the modified World Health Organization (WHO) Clinical Progression Scale. Specific effectiveness endpoints were body temperature, oxygen saturation, viral load assessed by cycle threshold (Ct) on real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), analytical biomarkers and use of antibiotics or corticosteroids. Specific safety outcomes were the absence of ethanol in plasma, electrographic, analytical, or respiratory alterations.

Results: In the intention-to-treat population, no differences were found regarding disease progression. Mean Ct values increased over time in both groups, being numerically higher in the ethanol group, reaching a value above 33 only in the ethanol group on day 14, a value above which patients are considered non-infective. No differences were found in the other specific effectiveness endpoints. Inhaled ethanol was proven to be safe as no plasma ethanol was detected, and there were no electrocardiographic, analytical, or respiratory alterations.

Conclusions: The efficacy of inhaled ethanol in terms of the progression of SARS-CoV-2 infection was not demonstrated in the present trial. However, it is positioned as a safe treatment for elderly patients with early-stage COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; elderly; inhaled ethanol; randomized controlled trial.