The project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research. (Credit: Olimpia Zagnat)

The trial will be led by experts at University of Nottingham and will look to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 in care homes.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the project will look to include up to 400 care homes in the ‘groundbreaking’ trial named PROTECT.

With more than 21,000 care homes across the UK housing 420,000 residents, the PROTECT project will look to use drugs which show promise in treating Covid-19 to see if they are effective in preventing the spread of the virus within care home settings.

Up to half of all Covid-19 deaths have occurred in care homes.

Professor Phillip Bath, lead author of PROTECT and professor at the University of Nottingham said: “Apart from vaccines, there are no drugs for preventing serious Covid-19 and we believe that the PROTECT trial has a good chance of finding one or more drugs that might reduce the awful death rates seen in care homes.”

As well as reducing the chance of infection amongst vulnerable care home residents, the project could also help enable a return to a more normal life for care home residents and their families, including more liberal visiting policies.

This has been a sore point for many residents and families as visiting opportunities have been scarce throughout the whole of the lockdown.

The trial will be coordinated from the University of Nottingham who will work with colleagues from the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Cardiff, Surrey, Warwick, Queen’s University Belfast and University College London.

Professor Adam Gordon, President-Elect of the British Geriatrics Society and co-chief investigator at the University of Nottingham said: “Having worked closely with care homes throughout the pandemic, I have seen how hard it has been for residents, their families and staff to deal with the high rates of illnesses and deaths, and the associated loss of routine, including visiting.

“The announcement of PROTECT is an important step towards finding preventative treatments that might help restore normality.”