Cook County Health Conducts Clinical Study For Possible Coronavirus Treatment

The study could determine if a medication used to treat Ebola and SARS could also be used to treat COVID-19.

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Chicago is playing a role in the search for a treatment of patients with coronavirus.

Cook County Health is one of three medical centers in Chicago leading some of the first clinical trials for a possible treatment for COVID-19.

The study could determine whether or not a medication called Remdesevir, used to treat Ebola and tested on animals for both MERS and SARS, could be used to treat patients with coronavirus.

"I think it could potentially bring a tremendous benefit to our patients," said Dr. Gregory Huhn, infectious disease physician at Cook County Health. "The drug works by shutting down the ability of the virus to replicate at high levels."

The study is being conducted worldwide, in about 100 clinical sites in dozens of countries. In the Cook County health system, they hope to enroll up to 50 patients who tested positive for coronavirus. Two out of the six patients who enrolled so far are showing positive results.

"One patient left the hospital already without oxygen. The second patient has not required oxygen and is doing quite well, responding to the therapy," said Dr. Huhn. "It's really encouraging," he added.

To qualify for the study, adults must enroll within four days of testing positive for COVID-19. Then, they receive a daily injection of Remdesevir for five or 10 days, depending on the severity of their case. The majority of participants are experiencing moderate to severe symptoms.

Research is ongoing for COVID-19, but a 2010 study of the SARS coronavirus - which is closely related to the new virus - showed it thrived in low humidity and temperatures below 40° F. That’s the same environment found inside a typical refrigerator. So, before you pack away your groceries, experts suggest you take some time to disinfect all of your items.

"This is an important study that will help us understand therapies that are safe, effective and really desperately needed in this time," said Dr. Huhn.

The clinical trials are still in their first phase. But Dr. Huhn said we could have some results in a few weeks. If all goes well once the studies are completed, then it would be up to the Federal Drug Administration to approve the treatment for nationwide use.

The study is funded by Gilead Sciences Inc., the drug maker of Remdesivir.

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