University Hospital teams with COVID patients to forge new weapons for the pandemic fight

April 28, 2020

University Hospital is the site of multiple drug studies in the fight against COVID-19.

There are currently four drug approaches being investigated in hospitalized patients, said Dr. Diego Maselli, medical director of respiratory therapy at University Hospital and associate professor of medicine at UT Health San Antonio.

Each drug could come at the virus in a different way, some focused more on the complications of the disease, such as body inflammation in major organs that could lead to organ failure and death.

One of the drugs being tried in some patients – but which is not part of a larger study – is tocilizumab, an older rheumatoid arthritis drug that has an effect on a special type of inflammation found in some patients with COVID-19.

Doctors and researchers had been considering another rheumatoid arthritis drug, hydroxychloroquine, but decided not to pursue that study.

Another drug being tested at University Hospital is remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that has been effective against other virus epidemics. This drug attacks a specific piece of machinery within the coronavirus that prevents it from growing.

And the fourth approach being tested in COVID-19 study participants at University Hospital includes anti-coagulants and high-dose steroids. Researchers have observed a high number of strokes in younger patients because COVID-19 can contribute to blood clots – and steroids attack the inflammation that attacks the patient.

Our researchers have the advantage of observations made by others who have dealt with the first waves of infection.

“Our colleagues from China, Italy, Spain and New York have noticed that the patients, these patients, tend to be prone to having clots in their body,” Dr. Maselli said.

It will take time to compile data and analyze it to see what works best, he added. While these trials offer hope, the best weapon in the fight is in all of our hands.

“The key for success for San Antonio and Texas and really the whole world is to continue to practice social distancing,” Dr. Maselli said.