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LSU Health Shreveport among three in U.S. engaged in COVID-19 clinical trial

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – LSU Health in Shreveport is among the first centers in the United States to enroll patients in an international study to test using nitric oxide to improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients with severely damaged lungs.

LSU Health’s Critical care and emergency medicine faculty in the Department of Medicine will conduct the tests using inhaled nitric oxide gas, hopefully to effectively kill the coronvirus in the damaged lungs and improve delivery of oxygen to injured tissues.

“Inhaled nitric oxide had previously been suggested to decrease original SARS-CoV infectivity over a decade ago but its effect on SARS-CoV2 remains unknown.  Moreover, research from LSU Health Shreveport has shown that nitric oxide is a strong protector against tissue hypoxia, which occurs during severe Covid-1 infection”, said Dr. Chris Kevil, vice chancellor for Research at LSU Health Shreveport.

Joining the Critical care and emergency medicine faculty in the study are the Department of Anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Division of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine at University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) as being among the first centers in the U.S. to enroll patients in the study.

Keith Scott, MD, MSc, FCCM, Principal Investigator for the nitric oxide clinical trial said, “We have tremendous confidence this therapy will alter the devastating effects of CoVID-19 but we must test it.”

Scott said the gas is already FDA approved, so if results from the study show promise, “wide-spread use could begin immediately.”

Steven Conrad, MD, PhD, MS, ME, MBA, MSST, MSC, is working with Scott on the trial. Scott said Conrad “brings immense research experience and knowledge in working with critically ill patients.” 

In Italy during the COVID-19 outbreak the gas has been used under less-controlled study conditions; however the treatment appeared to dramatically boost oxygen levels in the blood of COVID-19 patients, according to Dr. Lorenzo Berra, the critical-care specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who is leading the new trial. But, he added, it will take more rigorous testing to clarify how much nitric oxide helps.

The colorless, odorless gas, nitric oxide is inhaled through a mask or potentially through a small flute. It may also prove helpful in protecting healthcare workers on the front line of the pandemic from getting sick.

A proposed second trial, still under review by a research panel at Massachusetts General Hospital, would enroll healthcare workers who are routinely exposed to patients with COVID-19 and are themselves at high risk of infection. For 10 to 15 minutes at the start and end of every shift, doctors and nurses would tug on a handheld device and inhale a high dose of nitric oxide.

In humans, nitric oxide is naturally generated by blood vessels and by some brain cells as well. It helps to regulate blood pressure, engulfs invading toxins, and prevents platelets in the blood from forming clots that may be significantly compromised during times of stress including infection thus warranting the need for a supplemental supply.

When inflammation, emphysema or a disease like cystic fibrosis attacks the lungs, the large blood vessels and tiny capillaries that deliver oxygen constrict. Inhaled nitric oxide also relaxes those vessels, increasing the transfer of oxygen to the blood and easing the heart’s workload.

Physicians who are interested in a patient accessing this clinical trial should send an email to ino_trial@lsuhsc.edu with pertinent patient details. 

Additional COVID-19 clinical trials will be announced soon.

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