A new, international phase 3 clinical trial led by the Washington University School of Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will investigate the potential of three drugs to tame a dangerous inflammatory response seen in some COVID-19 patients.

“In severe COVID-19 infection, we think the virus triggers an abnormal immune response, which drives inflammation in the lungs and is the major reason people end up needing ventilators and sometimes dying,” said Washington University’s William G. Powderly, MD, protocol chair of the international trial, the J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine, and director of the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences. “The viral infection can trigger the need for hospitalization, but the illness that we see in such patients is predominantly an aberrant immune response. About 10 days after the initial infection — around the time many people with severe illness are hospitalized — many don’t have the active virus anymore, so an antiviral drug can’t do much at this point. We think adding an immune modulator drug may be helpful, and this trial is designed to determine whether such drugs can benefit patients with severe illness.”