A multi-centre open-label two-arm randomised superiority clinical trial of azithromycin versus usual care in ambulatory COVID-19: study protocol for the ATOMIC2 trial
Hinks TSC., Barber VS., Black J., Dutton SJ., Jabeen M., Melhorn J., Rahman NM., Richards D., Lasserson D., Pavord ID., Bafadhel M.
Abstract Background Azithromycin is an orally active synthetic macrolide antibiotic with a wide range of anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. It is a safe, inexpensive, generic licenced drug available worldwide and manufactured to scale and is a potential candidate therapy for pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Azithromycin was widely used to treat severe SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, but to date, no randomised data are available in any coronavirus infections. Other ongoing trials are exploring short courses of azithromycin either in early disease, within the first 7 days of symptoms, when azithromycin’s antiviral properties may be important, or late in disease when anti-bacterial properties may reduce the risk of secondary bacterial infection. However, the molecule’s anti-inflammatory properties, including suppression of pulmonary macrophage-derived pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukins-1β, -6, -8, and -18 and cytokines G-CSF and GM-CSF may provide a distinct therapeutic benefit if given in as a prolonged course during the period of progression from moderate to severe disease. Methods ATOMIC2 is a phase II/III, multi-centre, prospective, open-label, two-arm randomised superiority clinical trial of azithromycin versus standard care for adults presenting to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms who are not admitted at initial presentation. We will enrol adults, ≥ 18 years of age assessed in acute hospitals in the UK with clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 infection where management on an ambulatory care pathway is deemed appropriate. Participants will be randomised in a 1:1 ratio to usual care or to azithromycin 500 mg orally daily for 14 days with telephone follow-up at days 14 and 28. The primary objective is to compare the proportion with either death or respiratory failure requiring invasive or non-invasive mechanical ventilation over 28 days from randomisation. Secondary objectives include mortality/respiratory failure in those with a PCR-confirmed diagnosis; all-cause mortality; progression to pneumonia; progression to severe pneumonia; peak severity of illness and mechanistic analysis of blood and nasal biomarkers. Discussion This trial will determine the clinical utility of azithromycin in patients with moderately severe, clinically diagnosed COVID-19 and could be rapidly applicable worldwide. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04381962. Registered on 11 May 2020. EudraCT identifier 2020-001740-26. Opened for accrual on 29 May 2020.