BOSTON (CBS) — Harvard University researchers are working with two Boston hospitals to try a new way to help the sickest coronavirus patients. Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital will test a drug approved by the FDA to treat people with cystic fibrosis on those experiencing severe COVID-19 pneumonia and respiratory failure.

The drug is called Dornase alfa, also known as DNase 1 or Pulmozyme, and it works to prevent lung infections by breaking up thick mucus. That may make oxygen easier to deliver via ventilator, researchers say.

There’s also hope that the drug might break up neutrophil extracellular traps or NETs, which the researchers say could be contributing to lung inflammation.

A neutrophil, blue, releases unwound DNA, the backbone of NETs. The dots show proteins modified during NET formation or released by neutrophils and bound to NETs. Image credit: Lucas de Meglio and Patrick Munzer/Boston Children’s

“We hope this drug, which is known to be safe, will help reduce the inflammation that contributes to worsening respiratory distress in COVID-19,” said the study’s lead investigator, Benjamin Raby, who is a Harvard Medical School professor and chief of pulmonary medicine at Children’s.

The goal of the 18-month randomized, controlled study is to find out how many patients are alive and off a ventilator after 28 days. It aims to enroll 60 adults and children who need mechanical ventilation.

 

 

 

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