As the pandemic continues, physicians and researchers across the world are working doggedly to find ways to mitigate the toll of COVID-19, especially among populations experiencing infection surges. While many scientists are striving to create a vaccine, others are researching the best ways to treat those who are already sick. As part of this effort, Keck Medicine of USC physicians are enrolling patients in an international, Phase 3 clinical trial to evaluate the antiviral drug DAS181 as a possible treatment for severe COVID-19.

DAS181 has proven effective in fighting respiratory viruses, and limited preliminary data suggests that the drug may help hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19.

“The medication is thought to stop SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from penetrating and attaching to the cells lining the respiratory tract, therefore reducing the impact of the virus,” said Richard Castriotta, MD, a pulmonary critical care physician with Keck Medicine. “This drug may also improve patients’ immune response to the virus. Both actions should help reduce the severity and duration of COVID-19.”

Castriotta, also a professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC,  is leading the trial for Keck Medicine with fellow researchers Janice Liebler, MD, and Aniket Sharma, MD.

The trial is a double-blind, randomized, controlled study. Half the participants will receive DAS181 through a nebulizer. The other half will receive a placebo. Patients will receive the treatment twice a day for 10 to 14 days, depending on their response.

“The sooner someone recovers, the sooner they can stop the course of treatment,” Castriotta said. Participants will be tracked for approximately one month after treatment.

The study is open to individuals 18 years or older with both a confirmed case of COVID-19 and pneumonia. Their illness must be severe enough to require supplemental oxygen. Those on ventilators are excluded from the study. However, participants who require a ventilator during the course of treatment may remain in the trial.

Participants will be enrolled at Keck Hospital of USC, which is one of more than 30 sites in the United States, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan participating in the trial.

Learn more about the clinical trial here.

— Alison Rainey

DAS181 is manufactured by Ansun Biopharma, Inc., which is sponsoring the study.