Filter is being tested in Texas to remove COVID-19 from bloodstream

As researchers race to find successful treatments for COVID-19, a new tool is being tested at military hospitals across the country.

It's the Seraph 100 blood filter, and the company says it's being used at three facilities in San Antonio: UT Health, Brooke Army Medical Center, and William Beaumont Medical Center. 

They're using the filter to try to clear the virus out of the bloodstream. ExThera Medical Corporation is testing its blood filter on patients suffering from severe cases of COVID-19.

"It's really the first-of-its-kind in the world that is approved for the removal of pathogens from whole blood. Bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi can be removed very quickly by passing the blood through the filter and returning it to the patient," explains ExThera's President and CEO, Bob Ward.

The FDA fast-tracked approval of the device under its Emergency Use Authorization. Now the Department of Defense has selected it as one of its main interventions in a pivotal trial.

Ward says it's a relatively simple process.

"The blood is continuously taken out of the patient's body at a reasonable rate, 300 milliliters per minute or so, a pint per minute, let's say, and passes through the filter and returns to the patient's body. And if the patient is also in need of dialysis, you can insert the filter upstream of the dialyzer very easily and run the two treatments simultaneously," explains Ward.

Ward says the success rate so far is impressive. He says it has even helped keep some patients off of a ventilator.

"We have several cases where the patient's lung function was declining, but before they were put on ventilators, they were treated with our filter, the Seraph filter, and they did extremely well, they came out of the ICU the next day," states Ward.

 He goes on to say, the blood filter is being used in the most serious cases, even helping those with advanced disease.

"Among 15 different centers in six different countries, including the U.S., we have a survival rate of over 70%, and this is among patients who had given up last resort, a situation where they've been on ventilators for many days, they've been on even ECMO which is extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and without improvement. And so the doctors, not really familiar with this technology, said ‘okay well nothing else is working let's try it’, and even in that group, the survival rate has been excellent," says Ward.

While it's well-known that COVID-19 often affects the lungs and other organs, Ward wants more caretakers to consider how it affects the blood.

"It takes some education to convince them that it's in the bloodstream. The initial feeling you know the beginning of the pandemic was that it is not in the bloodstream, but that has been disproven by a number of publications that find that the virus or the RNA from the virus, the fragments of the virus show up in the bloodstream, later on in the course of the disease. And to the extent that it is in the bloodstream the more that is found there, the more severely ill the patient is. So it is definitely in the blood," says Ward.

You may have heard that COVID-19 has caused blood clots in some people, but Ward says the blood filter is helping prevent that, as well. And so far, he says they have not reported negative side effects from the treatment.

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