UAB to partake in COVID-19 clinical trial using nitric oxide

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of a few hospitals in the country participating in an international study assessing the use of inhaled nitric oxide to improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients with severely damaged lungs.

Currently, there are no approved treatment options available against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, although many medications are currently being tested to see if they may be effective. Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a severe form of lung failure, is the leading cause of death in COVID-19.

Nitric oxide has been used for the treatment of failing lungs, but it was also found to have antiviral properties against coronaviruses. The antiviral effect was tested and demonstrated during the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic, which was caused by a similar coronavirus called the SARS-CoV virus. 

Dr. Amy Illescas said the antiviral properties of the drug make it to so virus cells can not penetrate our infection-fighting cells. The patients that will be selected for the trial will be severely ill.

“It’s something that is pumped into the person’s lungs by the ventilator machine. And that’s an important criterion for a patient to be selected to try this drug,” said Dr. Illescas.

Currently, there are no approved treatment options available against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, although many medications are currently being tested to see if they may be effective. Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a severe form of lung failure, is the leading cause of death in COVID-19.

With the start of this trial, any COVID-19 patient who is admitted to UAB’s ICU and is breathing with the assistance of a ventilator may potentially qualify for the study.

The UAB team says this pandemic has led to an extraordinary unifying response by the medical community, including ICU physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, clinical trial specialists, reviewers, and medical administrators, allowing for faster than normal approvals for potentially life-saving research studies.


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