05/06/2020

Valley researchers developing new treatment options for coronavirus patients

A new treatment is on the way for patients battling the effects of coronavirus. 

“If the treatment’s working well, the virus should drop down to very low levels and then hopefully disappear,” said Dr. David Engelthaler, TGen North Director. 

“Combining the drug atovaquone, which is another anti-malarial drug, in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin,” said Dr. Michael Gordan, HonorHealth Medical oncologist.

That drug combination will soon be given to a panel of 25 patients in the HonorHealth hospital system.

“Atovaquone may bind to some critical areas of the virus itself and may prevent its replication,” said Dr. Sunil Sharma TGen Clinical Sciences.

It’s something researchers say could help a patient with COVID-19 recover more quickly. 

The antibiotic azithromycin used to curb the respiratory effects of the virus, and is therapy already approved by the FDA. 

“It’s already approved and currently used for a different parasitic disease called babesiosis,” said Dr. Sharma.

The researchers say the treatment will be used on patients with moderate or severe illness. 

While this team wants to help those fighting the virus, another team of ASU researchers is focused on COVID-19s genetic makeup who recently discovered a mutation in a strain here in Arizona. 

“One of them had a novel deletion meaning it was missing part of its genetic material in a certain region of the genome,” said Dr. Matthew Scotch with Arizona State University. 

Dr. Scotch says that finding could provide a clue into how the virus makes people sick. 

“It at least tells us that it doesn’t need a full intact genetic code to always transmit,” said Dr. Scotch. 

One of the reasons why this mutation is of interest is because it mirrors a large deletion that arose in the 2003 SARS outbreak. 

Dr. Scotch made it a point to say by no means, does this mutation signal the virus could be weakening. 

He says it adds to an ever-growing amount of data that helps scientists around the world develop more antiviral drugs or potentially formulate a new vaccine. 

You can get more information by emailing the HonorHealth Research Institute at covidtrials@honorhealth.com. More information about the clinical trial, as well as others, can be found online.

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