Defense Department Plans Study of COVID-19 Blood-Purification Treatment

United States

- From the Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Defense Department has agreed to fund a clinical trial of devices from two venture-backed companies that could treat critically ill COVID-19 patients by purifying their blood. ExThera Medical Corp. and BOA Biomedical Inc. plan to test their dialysis-like treatments designed to purify the blood of pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, and also of substances that could trigger a potentially fatal inflammatory cascade in COVID-19 patients.

The study, expected to begin later this year, will take place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and at nonmilitary hospitals. ExThera’s treatment secured regulatory approval in Europe in 2019 and an emergency-use authorization for COVID-19 in the U.S. last year.

Other types of blood-purification technologies, designed to remove inflammation-promoting proteins known as cytokines, also have received emergency authorization for COVID-19. Despite the availability of these treatments, some doctors say additional clinical trial data are needed to more firmly establish blood purification as a treatment for COVID-19. The Defense Department study could bolster its use in treating COVID-19 and for severe infections in general.

“If this works, this could revolutionize how one addresses emerging infectious diseases,” said Dr. Joseph Caravalho Jr. , president and chief executive of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine Inc., a nonprofit that helps the Defense Department work with academic and industry groups. Military personnel can be deployed anywhere in the world and be exposed to pathogens, and also can develop infections following combat injuries, said Dr. Caravalho, a retired U.S. Army major general. Even with vaccines, they can still develop infections that require treatment, he added.

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