BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - UAB will be among the first hospitals in the U.S. to offer a clinical trial to treat COVID-19 patients using nitric oxide.
UAB has been selected to begin enrolling patients in an international study assessing the use of inhaled nitric oxide (iNO) 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.
Experts say acute respiratory distress syndrome, a severe form of lung failure, is the leading cause of death in COVID-19.
UAB researchers say iNO has been used for the treatment of failing lungs, but it was also found to have antiviral properties against coronaviruses. The antiviral effect of iNO was tested and demonstrated during the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic, which was caused by a similar coronavirus called the SARS-CoV virus.
When lungs are failing, some parts of the lungs receive air while some do not. iNO is a gas that improves the blood flow to those areas of the lung that are receiving air, boosting the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood stream. It also reduces the work of the right side of the heart, which is under extreme stress during conditions of lung failure, such as severe COVID-19 infection.
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.
“This trial will allow the sickest COVID-19 patients at UAB access to a rescue therapy that may have antiviral benefits in addition to improving the status of lungs,” said Vibhu Parcha, M.D., a research fellow with UAB’s Division of Cardiovascular Disease.
Pankaj Arora, M.D., assistant professor in the division, is spearheading UAB’s efforts in providing this treatment option to eligible COVID-19 patients.
“In humans, nitric oxide is generated within the blood vessels and regulates blood pressure, and prevents formation of clots and also destroys potential toxins,” Arora said.
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 lifesaving research studies.
UAB has already been selected to test a vaccine for COVID-19.