University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

UTHealth joins trial of arthritis drug’s effect on COVID-19-induced cytokine storm

Newswise — A drug is being studied for its effectiveness in treating a type of severe immune overreaction seen in patients with COVID-19-induced pneumonia by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The clinical trial is enrolling patients at Harris Health System’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.

The Phase III, multisite, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study is evaluating the effectiveness of the drug canakinumab, an interleukin-1 (IL-1) blocker approved for the treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, for preventing cytokine release syndrome (CRS) in COVID-19 patients with pneumonia.

Often referred to as a cytokine storm, CRS is a life-threatening immune reaction caused by the body releasing too many cytokines into the blood at once. Cytokines include a broad category of proteins secreted by the body. IL-1 serves as the first-line defense for the immune system, alerting other proteins to respond if a virus or bacteria are present.

Canakinumab blocks the production of IL-1 protein, which could prevent a possible deadly overreaction of the immune system in COVID-19 patients. Research has linked a number of COVID-19 deaths to CRS due to damage caused to several major organs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded researchers at UTHealth of the early days of the HIV pandemic, when confusion and fear affected many communities and few treatment options were available.

Roberto C. Arduino, MD, the study’s lead investigator and professor of infectious disease with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, said this is a time for the HIV research community to utilize members’ expertise in the search for a treatment for the coronavirus. Arduino’s research background includes the study of new antiretroviral drugs, treatment strategies, immune activation, and inflammation in the search of a HIV cure.

“The research community truly feels compelled to do something in the search for a viable treatment for COVID-19, and I feel I owe it to my community to offer my expertise,” said Arduino, who has led HIV clinical research for 22 years.

Researchers are investigating if canakinumab combined with standard-of-care treatment can increase the chances of survival without ever requiring invasive mechanical ventilation in patients with COVID-19-induced pneumonia. Over a two-hour period, patients who are enrolled will receive either a 450 mg, 600 mg, or a 750 mg IV dose of canakinumab based on their body weight; or placebo. All participants will be monitored for up to 29 days, or until they are discharged from the hospital. A follow-up will occur at 127 days.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals and the National Institutes of Health AIDS Clinical Trials Network are sponsoring this clinical trial. For more information, visit ClinicalTrials.gov.




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Newswise: Newer variant of COVID-19–causing virus dominates global infections
Released: 2-Jul-2020 12:10 PM EDT
Newer variant of COVID-19–causing virus dominates global infections
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Research out today in the journal Cell shows that a specific change in the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus virus genome, previously associated with increased viral transmission and the spread of COVID-19, is more infectious in cell culture.

Newswise: From Wuhan to San Diego—How a mutation on the novel coronavirus has come to dominate the globe
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From Wuhan to San Diego—How a mutation on the novel coronavirus has come to dominate the globe
La Jolla Institute for Immunology

Two variants of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), called G614 and D614, were circulating in mid-March. A new study shows that the G version of the virus has come to dominate cases around the world. They report that this mutation does not make the virus more deadly, but it does help the virus copy itself, resulting in a higher viral load, or "titer," in patients.

Released: 2-Jul-2020 11:50 AM EDT
New Study Explains Potential Causes for “Happy Hypoxia” Condition in COVID-19 Patients
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A new research study provides possible explanations for COVID-19 patients who present with extremely low, otherwise life-threatening levels of oxygen, but no signs of dyspnea (difficulty breathing). This new understanding of the condition, known as silent hypoxemia or “happy hypoxia,” could prevent unnecessary intubation and ventilation in patients during the current and expected second wave of coronavirus.

Released: 2-Jul-2020 10:15 AM EDT
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Association for Psychological Science

New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

29-Jun-2020 9:00 AM EDT
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Released: 2-Jul-2020 8:50 AM EDT
Learn from the pandemic to prevent environmental catastrophe, scientists argue
University of Cambridge

• COVID-19 is comparable to climate and extinction emergencies, say scientists from the UK and US – all share features such as lagged impacts, feedback loops, and complex dynamics. • Delayed action in the pandemic cost lives and economic growth, just as it will with environmental crises – but on a scale “too grave to contemplate”.

Released: 1-Jul-2020 5:30 PM EDT
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Iowa State University

Iowa State's COVID-19 Research Seed Grant program will support the initial stages of high-risk/high-reward projects that address the COVID-19 crisis.

Released: 1-Jul-2020 4:30 PM EDT
National Survey on COVID-19 Pandemic Shows Significant Mental Health Impact
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

The findings of a nationwide survey assessing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the emotional wellbeing of U.S. adults show 90 percent of survey respondents reported experiencing emotional distress related to the pandemic.

Released: 1-Jul-2020 2:40 PM EDT
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered how people shop, how much they buy, the trips they take outside their homes, and the number of tele-activities — like work, medicine, and education — that have become commonplace. These changes were rapid and have tremendously impacted the economy, supply chains, and the environment. Two sets of surveys were conducted by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in an effort to quantify and understand these unprecedented shifts — and evaluate the likelihood they may last after the pandemic has ended.


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