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Clinical trial underway in Arizona to study potential treatment of more severe forms of COVID-19

Scientists with HonorHealth Research Institute and TGen are studying how atovaquone and azithromycin could help treat coronavirus.

ARIZONA, USA — A new possible treatment for COVID-19 is being studied in Arizona.

Scientists with HonorHealth Research Institute and TGen are studying how atovaquone, an anti-malarial drug, and azithromycin, an antibiotic, could help treat coronavirus.

The combination of atovaquone and azithromycin is currently being used to treat an infection spread by ticks called Babesiosis.

"It’s relatively safe,” Dr. Sunil Sharma, one of the clinical trial’s principal investigators said. “I mean, no drug is 100% safe. No combination is 100% safe, but relatively safe.”

The clinical trial will enroll 25 patients across three HonorHealth hospitals in the Valley with moderate to severe forms of COVID-19. The hope is the two drugs will help shorten the virus and lessen the severity of symptoms.

During the trial, TGen will be tracking how the virus is behaving and changing in participants.

“For us to be able to overcome this infection, it’s not a matter of weathering the storm. It’s a matter of understanding when the next storm is coming,” Dr. Michael Gordo, Medical Director of HonorHealth Research Institute said.

The trial is one of many options being looked into.

On Friday, the FDA announced the approval of Remdesivir for emergency use as a treatment for those with severe forms of COVID-19. The anti-viral drug was shown in clinical trials to reduce recovery time from the virus.

An NIH database shows more than 100 clinical trials are underway across the country for various drugs and other inventions to help address COVID-19.

But the researchers are hopeful their combination of atovaquone and azithromycin will make a difference.

“We can’t hope that we’re going to find a magic bullet,” Dr. David Engelthaler, Director of TGen North said. “With innovation like this we are going to find bullets and these can be used and we need to use them until we are able to get an effective vaccine in place.”

So far, one patient is enrolled in the trial. The scientists say while she’s been on the regimen for a few days, it’s too early to tell if it’s helping or not.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases.