TGen, HonorHealth Partner On Coronavirus Treatment Trials

Published: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - 4:06pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - 10:42am
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The Translational Genomics Research Institute is partnering with HonorHealth to perform clinical trials of a potential coronavirus treatment.

The treatment combines azithromycin, an antibiotic used to combat viral lung infections, and atovaquone, an antimalarial drug with fewer cardiac risks than hydroxychloroquine.

Researchers hope the drug combo will limit coronavirus replication and give the body's immune system room to mount a stronger defense.

"Several groups have reported that atovaquone may bind to some critical areas of the virus itself and may prevent its replication," said Dr. Sunil Sharma, a drug development expert at HonorHealth and TGen.

If true, researchers expect an improved antibody response and a decrease in viral symptoms.

Doctors already use azithromycin, also known as Zithromax Z-Pak, with atovaquone to treat babesiosis, a rare tick-borne, malaria-like illness.

That track record makes the duo an attractive research target, as does the fact that they are available in liquid form, which allows them to be given to intubated patients.

"We could continue to administer the drug without having to change the formulation by putting it into a feeding tube or a nasal gastric tube. That becomes an important factor given how sick the moderate-to-severe patients can be," said Dr. Michael Gordon, medical director of HonorHealth Research Institute.

David Engelthaler, co-director of TGen North, home to TGen's Pathogen and Microbiome Division, cautioned that coronavirus affects different people in different ways.

"We can't hope that we're going to find a magic bullet but, with innovation like this, we are going to find bullets."

The initial trial will involve 25 people already in the HonorHealth system who have moderate to severe coronavirus cases.

Researchers will monitor patients' viral loads using throat swabs or nasal pharyngeal swabs every three days and antibody blood tests every week.

"The goal is to not only treat patients with the goal of looking at their clinical outcome but, with our colleagues and partners at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, focus on trying to understand the biology of how this combination may be impacting COVID-19," said Gordon.

For more information on the COVID-19 clinical trial please contact HonorHealth Research Institute at [email protected]

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