Critically ill patients with Covid19 in Ireland will be asked to take part in a clinical trial on how to treat the disease.

The trial will test the effects of different interventions for Covid 19 patients, who are being treated in intensive care units. 

These interventions include antiviral drugs and immunomodulatory drugs. 

St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin and University Hospital Galway will begin the trialing these interventions next week, which is part of a global research effort to tackle the pandemic. 

Other hospitals, including Beaumont Hospital, Cork University Hospital, University Hospital Limerick and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast are also expected to take part in the trial at a later date. 

Alistair Nichol is a Professor of intensive care medicine at UCD and an intensive care consultant at St Vincent's University Hospital. 

He is also the Irish lead on this clinical trial. 

Professor Nichol says that patients who end up in ICU after contracting the virus, can be asked to give their consent to participate.

If a patient is too unwell to give consent, their next of kin could then be asked for permission.

Due to current visiting restrictions as a result of the coronavirus, doctors may have to contact families for this purpose over the phone. 

Professor Nichol said it's hard to say how many Irish patients could participate, because we don't yet know how many people here are going to become unwell. 

This trial, he says, was borne out of lessons learned during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, in which clinical trials couldn't be set up in time to respond to the crisis. 

After this, he says EU funding was made available to ensure researchers were ready when the next pandemic hit. 

This meant designing a new trial, called "REMAP CAP", a global research platform that can be adapted to look at treatment options for critically ill patients due to a respiratory pandemic.  

Professor Nichol says this trial can allow a rapid response, and they've already been practicing with this trial model, by treating ICU patients with community acquired pneumonia.

"We can rapidly generate evidence to guide doctor's decisions on the best treatment for critically ill patients with COVID-19", Professor Nichol said.

The trial involves research teams in Ireland, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, and they will share their data quickly.

Professor Nichol explained that in a pandemic situation like this, if one intervention is working more effectively than another, patients will actively be directed towards that treatment, rather than waiting for the final results of a clinical trial. 

The Health Research Board in Ireland is supporting Irish scientists in this trial.

Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive at the HRB, says that existing support for the Irish Critical Care Clinical Trials Network at UCD means Irish researchers can react quickly.

A further €400,000 thousand will also be provided by the HRB for the trial. 

"The pace at which we have been able to respond is only possible because of the incredible work done to date in this network and the collaborations they have established internationally", Mr Morrissey said.