Researchers say study looks promising to treat severe COVID-19 patients

Researchers are studying new treatments every day to find ways to successfully treat COVID-19 patients.

This, as the CDC warns that more than 1,000 Americans are dying each day from COVID-19 at this point in the pandemic. So the race continues for effective treatments.

Researchers say a study taking place at Houston Methodist Hospital looks promising to treat the most severe patients.

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New results show patients had a nine-fold chance of survival and recovery from respiratory failure, after being treated with Aviptadil, also known as RLF-100.

“Aviptadil is a fancy name for synthetic Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide (VIP), which is also an intimidating name. The important thing to understand is this is a tiny bit of protein. It's 28 amino acids long, that all air-breathing mammals have been making for as long as mammals have been breathing air, in order to protect the lung from all kinds of injuries,” explains Dr. Jonathan Javitt.

Dr. Javitt has an impressive background.  He’s the CEO of Neuro-RX, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and is leading the trial of Aviptadil. He has held healthcare leadership roles under four presidents of the United States. 

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He says doctors have been trying to figure out why COVID-19 knocks-out the ability to get oxygen from the air into your blood.

“We now understand that the reason it does that is because it knocks out the cell that creates the critical fluid layer that lines the lung. Without that layer of fluid, human beings are like a fish out of water. They can't exchange oxygen with the outside world, the oxygen doesn't get into the blood, and that's what kills you in COVID-19,” says Dr. Javitt. 

That's why the goal of this new treatment targets the lungs.

“This peptide, which has been around in nature, for either  65 million years or since an intelligent creator designed it, whichever belief system you have, this peptide protects that very cell. It binds specifically to receptors on that cell, it doesn't bind anywhere else in the lung, and when it does, it blocks the ability of the virus to copy itself to replicate. It increases the lungs ability to make surfactant, it blocks these inflammatory cytokines that everybody talks about, and we believe that that's why we've seen these dramatic improvement in chest x-rays,” says Dr. Javitt.

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He says so far, even the most critically ill patients are improving in just a matter of days after treatment. 

“We're starting out, using intravenous Aviptadil in the most serious patients, the patients who are in ICU, either on the ventilator or getting high flow nasal oxygen. But our plan is within the month to start a second,” explains Dr. Javitt.

He goes on to say that's a similar concept of how asthma drugs treat patients.

Another promising thing about this treatment, peptides can be manufactured synthetically in huge quantities and relatively inexpensively.

If the FDA approves this treatment, Dr. Javitt says 30,000 doses could roll out by March, then many more on a regular basis.

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