Nitric oxide is emerging as a potential treatment for COVID-19, and doctors around the world are testing it again after it had been shown to kill another coronavirus, SARS.
"It's a pretty remarkable drug," Massachusetts General Hospital critical-care specialist Dr. Lorenzo Berra, who is leading a trial, told the L.A. Times. "It has a risk profile that is minimal."
Nitric oxide has a number of uses, from helping heart patients to saving "blue babies" lacking oxygen at birth, but its effects on the male sexual organ were discovered in 1988, leading to the erectile dysfunction drug Viagara. Early research showed that nitric oxide dilated the blood vessels and relaxed the male sex organ, allowing it to engorge.
Dr. Berra said nitric oxide was also found to kill a coronavirus that leapt from bats to humans, University of Leuven in Belgium researchers found in 2004, according to the report.
"The story ended there," Berra told the Times, noting the SARS epidemic ended in eight months and "nobody tested anymore."
Currently, the Chinese are conducting a pilot study to see if Viagra can help patients with COVID-19-induced breathing problems avoid having to use ventilators.
Berra seeks to lead 240 subjects in a clinical trial in Boston, as other hospitals in Alabama, Louisiana, Sweden, Austria, and China are doing the same, treating mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 in an effort to ultimately avoid breathing assistance with a ventilator.
Berra also seeks to enroll 470 healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 patients in a study, giving them nitric oxide for 10-15 minutes at the start and end of shifts.
The gas "helps regulate blood pressure, engulfs invading toxins, prevents platelets in the blood from forming clots, and signals that food has arrived and that sex is at hand," the Times wrote.
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