Since the pandemic began, a group at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport has been testing the effects of inhaled nitric oxide on hospitalized patients with the virus. It’s all part of an international study with over 250 patients enrolled.
Preliminary data first showed that patients who received nitric oxide therapy were able to breathe more easily and didn’t show any major side effects. Doctor Keith Scott, who’s heading up the trials at LSU Health, says the newest results, released by Massachusetts General Hospital, shows that the colorless, odorless gas could actually help to kill the virus itself.
“It’s not the treatment. But it is certainly going to be a treatment. We’re very convinced of that,” Scott said.
Scott says he’s become more optimistic after months of administering nitric oxide to both severe and less severe coronavirus patients at LSU Health.
“It certainly is safe. That’s the one thing we’re seeing over and over again about this nitric oxide,” Scott said.
Through their research, involving Harvard Medical School and other universities across the country and world, they’re now trying to further prove that the gas can help kill the virus where it attacks patients the most.
“What’s unique about this, is this drug gets into those cells. Not only the lung cells but also the lining of the blood vessel. And so it has a unique opportunity to interact with this virus,” Scott said.
The first results were received from a group of six pregnant women with coronavirus who inhaled the gas in very high doses.
“The reason we do that is not only does it improve oxygen flow to the lungs. But it also has virucidal. It can actually kill the virus in the cells itself,” Scott said.
Between April and June, three of the six women delivered four babies, including a set of twins. Each infant tested negative for COVID-19 and remained healthy afterward. Five of the women also later tested negative for the virus at least twice.
Scott hopes the potential virucidal results are similar for the severe and less severe patients they’ve been treating in Louisiana. He says the gas, which is already approved for use by the FDA, is widely accessible.
“Any hospital, any physician can start using it tomorrow. That’s another beauty of this, there’s no regulatory hoops to jump through,” Scott said.
Some hospitals, like Baton Rouge General, already using nitric oxide to help virus patients recover. Scott says more positive data will only encourage more hospitals to do the same.
He believes developing an effective coronavirus therapy treatment is just as important as developing a vaccine.
“A lot of the effort is for a vaccine. And we need to push for vaccine very hard because that’s the ultimate treatment. But there’s going to people that will not take the vaccine. There’s going to be people that the vaccine may not work on,” Scott said.
There are still some seriously ill patients in Shreveport who are currently receiving the gas daily as part of the ongoing study. More results from that trial happening here in the state will be released in the coming weeks. Scott says those results will help determine if the gas is truly effective in killing the virus.