St. Jude scientists identify possible COVID-19 treatment

WATCH: St. Jude scientists identify possible COVID-19 treatment

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — St. Jude scientists may have identified a new strategy that could possibly save the lives of people battling COVID-19. They made the announcement Thursday.

“This is a treatment, so we can save these lives and save these people from long term damage that we’re seeing in these patients,” said Dr. Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti.

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Kanneganti is the Vice-Chair of the Immunology Center. She said the development is the biggest finding of her career. The medication comes from drugs that have been used to treat things like Crohn’s disease and colitis.

“In simple terms, our bodies are overreacting,” Kanneganti said. “We understand now how it’s overreacting and in simple terms, we found a way to block the symptoms.”

The scientists identified the drugs after discovering that the hyperinflammatory immune response associated with COVID-19 leads to tissue damage and multi-organ failure in mice by triggering inflammatory cell death pathways. The researchers detailed how the inflammatory cell death signaling pathway worked, which led to potential therapies to disrupt the process.

“Inflammation is killing people. Now we can block the inflammation to save lives,” said Kanneganti.

The next step is a human clinical trial that’s set for the coming days. St. Jude said everything is expedited due to the increasing numbers of COVID, so this could become an interim treatment until a vaccine is available.

“They’re already available in hospitals and with doctors so they can easily treat when a patient comes in with symptoms so that’s why I’m really excited. I’m so excited,” said Kanneganti.

The research was supported in part by grant from the National Institutes of Health, and ASLAC, the awareness and fundraising organization of St. Jude.