UC Davis researchers see promise in some coronavirus treatments

Local News

DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) — UC Davis held a virtual roundtable Thursday for doctors to discuss two potential treatments for the coronavirus — remdesivir and convalescent plasma.

They say in the early stages, both are showing some promise but also some challenges.

“Remdesivir is a step forward. It may be a baby step but I think it’s a step forward,” Dr. Stuart Cohen said. “It works to block the replication of the virus.”

Cohen leads UC Davis’ Division of Infectious Diseases and is the director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control.

During a virtual roundtable Thursday, Cohen explained the drug remdesivir showed promise in a clinical trial at UC Davis Medical Center, with nearly two thirds of severely ill patients responding well.

“It shortened the duration of hospitalization by four days,” Cohen said.

But it’s unclear if it lowered the death rate.

Doctors are now trying to use the drug alongside another, baricitinib, which works to regulate the immune system.

“It’s a way of sort of taming the immune system while also giving the antiviral drug that’s slowing down the virus from multiplying,” Cohen said.

He believes it may take several drugs or treatments used together to help patients recover, like convalescent plasma. It involves recovered patients donating the liquid portion of their blood to be transfused into those who are ill. Currently, these treatments are being reserved for patients who are extremely ill.

“To transfer the immunity that’s in the plasma from one person to another person whose body hasn’t produced the immune response to the virus,” UC Davis Director of Transfusion Medicine Dr. Sarah Barnhard said.

Barnhard says they have seen some success using this treatment at UC Davis.

However, researchers haven’t been able to collect hard data because there simply isn’t enough antibody-rich plasma being donated for the treatments.

 “You had a lot of people early on in the process that likely had COVID but we didn’t have testing available,” Barnhard said. “And in order to donate plasma you have to have had a test.”

And those who are now testing positive, must wait a month before they can donate. She’s hopeful that they’ll start to see more donations as time goes by and more patients recover.

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