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.

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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.

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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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