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MercyOne Waterloo participating in a clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL)- Mercy One Waterloo Medical Center is one of 15 medical facilities worldwide taking part in a new clinical trial to study a possible COVID-19 treatment.

MercyOne is partnering with researchers from the Northeast Iowa Medical Foundation for the trial.

Doctors are looking at whether or not a specific antibody can reduce the severity of respiratory issues that are caused by the virus.

"We don't know for sure if it will help patients with the COVID related illness," Northeast Iowa Family Practice Center Clinical Pharmacist and Research Director Dr. Jim Heohns said. "There is a good rationale as to why it would offer some benefits."

The hope is that the antibody could keep patients off ventilators, something Dr. Heohns said would be a huge step forward.

"The entire objective of this is to see if this could lower the progression in COVID-19 patients who are experiencing breathing problems that require the use of a ventilator or lower the risk of death," he said.

Researchers are looking at a monoclonal antibody known as "CSL312." The clinical trial will target patients who have severe COVID-19 symptoms and respiratory issues. It is administered one time through an IV.

"The biggest things we don't know is what the recruitment rate will be," Dr. Hoehns said. "We don't know the frequency of illness we will see inside the hospital that will qualify."

In the trial, only half of the patients will receive the antibodies. The other half will be given a placebo. Both groups of patients will be able to participate in the test while continuing to take other treatments such as Remdesivir.

So far, only ten patients worldwide have qualified for the study. None of them are at the MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center.

"We are just starting here in Waterloo," Dr. Hoehns said. "We started actively trying to identify and recruit patients this week."

Researchers expect that around 125 people will participate in the study worldwide.

The clinical trial is part of a recent push to find treatments for COVID-19. Dr. Hoehns said the efforts have been incredible.

"I have been in practice for 25 years," he said. "I have never seen a study get started and move from point A to point B as quickly as we have seen with some COVID-19 studied."

Dr. Hoehns said that includes this clinical trial. He credits the fast-tracked approach to the urgency of finding treatments.

Dr. Hoehns said he is excited to be a part of this collaboration of different hospitals, research centers, and institutions.

"This will be the first human study to evaluate the effectiveness of this drug in fighting COVID-19," he said. "It is also exciting to be able to offer some sort of hope to patients."

Researchers expect to complete the study by the end of the year.