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VERIFY: Israel looking at drug to cure COVID-19

The drug is aimed at stopping severe cases of the virus from killing hospitalized patients.

WASHINGTON — Across the country, hospitalizations from the virus are on the rise. At last report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said more than 38,000 Americans are being treated for COVID-19 In the hospital.

At the same time, scientists in Israel are studying a drug that they believe could cure people who already have COVID-19.

Different medical professionals have given mixed evaluations of the drugs remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine. So what would a drug that cures COVID-19 do?

Question:

What do we know about Israel’s anti-COVID-19 drug?

Answer:

Israeli scientists completed Phase 1 testing of a drug they believe could cure people who get severe cases of COVID-19.

Our Sources:

National Institutes of Health, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University and Naor Bar-Zeev a vaccines and infectious diseases expert from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Nadir Arber, head of the Preventive Medicine Division at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center.

What We Found:

Our experts explained you need to understand how COVID-19 makes people sick. They said the virus gets in the body and then:

“Our immune response starts to fight the virus, but then it causes a lot of collateral damage,” Dr. Schaffner said.

This out-of-control immune response can damage organs and in more than 500,000 cases in the United States, it has caused death.

Israel’s new drug, EXO-CD24, is a treatment that hospitalized patients would just inhale. It was developed by Dr. Nadir Arber at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv. 

"The target is not really the COVID-19 (itself), but to suppress the cytokine storm that leads to a pulmonary insufficiency," Dr. Arber said. 

“The concept here is that we're using an immune modulator to dampen down some of the T-cells that are responsible for the cytokine storm that we sometimes see in severe disease,” Dr. Bar-Zeev said.

In simpler terms words, the new treatment would calm down the immune system.

“So our own immune response does not injure our own lungs, and other organ systems,” Dr. Schaffner said.

"It's very easy to give it to a patient," Dr. Arber said holding up the inhaling device. "We gave it once a day by inhalation which lasts for five minutes."

So where is this drug? Researchers in Israel at the Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center completed the Phase 1 trials with, reportedly, good results. They tested on moderate and severe cases. 

Dr. Arber said 29 out of 30 patients recovered from COVID-19 within 3 to 5 days after using EXO-CD24. 

"In order to be sure that the drug is effective, we are launching now, a new phase where we compare the drug versus placebo," Dr. Arber continued. "So this is this exciting."

But, our expert said the drug has a long way to go.

“I think It's too early to say anything certain about it,” Dr. Bar-zeev said. “But it's encouraging that we have a product that potentially can reduce disease severity, and that is going to be making its way through rigorous trials and evaluation.”

How could it be used in the United States?

It would have to follow the same path as all emergency use drugs. Our experts said if the Phase 3 trials prove successful, Israel would send the drug’s trial data to the FDA to seek approval.

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