Ohio State Uses Experimental Therapy to Combat Excess Inflammation in COVID-19 Patients

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are the first in Ohio to test a therapy that reduces the uncontrolled inflammation in COVID-19 patients that has been linked to severe respiratory distress, heart inflammation, multi-organ failure and death.

Using the SeaStar Medical CLR 2.0 filter, doctors are filtering patient blood to remove immune system proteins called cytokines. The cytokines set off severe inflammation causing the lungs to fill with fluid making it difficult to breathe. Patients can develop acute respiratory distress syndrome, multi-organ failure and myocarditis.

“By limiting the cytokines in the blood, we can prevent the disease from getting worse, allowing supportive therapy to work and potentially reversing the damage the severe inflammation caused,” said Dr. Omar Al-Qudsi, principal investigator, assistant professor of anesthesiology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and intensivist at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. 

The therapy is given to COVID-19 patients on a ventilator who have severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, or mild acute respiratory distress syndrome and multi-organ failure. These patients are placed on continuous renal replacement therapy using the SeaStar filter for six to 12 hours. The therapy is stopped when inflammatory markers in the blood are normalized. So far, seven patients have received the treatment.

Dr. Al-Qudsi said, “We are seeing improved oxygen levels and getting these patients off the ventilator. There’s minimal risk to the patient and treatment can be repeated as necessary.”

The filter is used to reduce inflammation in brain dead organ donors. It’s being used in COVID-19 patients under the filter’s Food and Drug Administration 510(k) indication for use when removal of excess fluid is indicated.

To further study the effectiveness of this therapy, the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center is joining a national multicenter trial where researchers will administer this therapy to patients and monitor levels of cytokines in the blood to see how quickly they fall compared to patients who haven’t received the therapy. 

Dr. Ravi Tripathi, associate professor of anesthesiology at the College of Medicine, and Dr. Bryan Whitson, professor of surgery at the College of Medicine, are co-investigators.