Temple University Hospital is enrolling participants in a new clinical trial using antibodies to treat critical COVID-19 patients.
According to Temple Health, the clinical trial “will enroll up to 270 patients with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and clinical evidence of acute lung injury.”
Dr. Gerard Criner is the Chair and Professor of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and the principal investigator of the BREATHE clinical trial.
According to Dr. Criner, the reason why patients become critical from the virus is because of cytokine storm, which is a common occurrence in other coronaviruses MERS and SARS.
“It’s when the lung becomes inflamed. It fills with fluid. Patients have trouble breathing. To try to limit this inflammatory cascade, there’s different antibodies that have been developed […] that can try block different parts of the cascade,” Dr. Criner explains.
Patients with this severe lung complication are often placed on mechanical ventilators, which according to Temple Health, has a mortality rate of 4.1 percent.
President Donald Trump has his own opinion on off-label use of medications like hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to treat COVID-19 patients.
The President tweeted on March 21 that hydroxychloroquine could be the “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”
Dr. Criner, however, is wary of mere anecdotal evidence and believes controlled studies must be done to test drugs’ efficacy in treating COVID-19 patients.
“In some respects, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin could compound the problems that you would have with heart arrhythmias,” says the physician. He went on to add, “That’s why clinical trials need to be done in an organized way.”
Dr. Criner admits there is still a long road to prove the efficacy of antibody treatment in this clinical trial and that the results of the study will not be available for about two months.