Researchers testing old treatment in new way for COVID-19

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CBS) The battle against the coronavirus can be intense, especially for patients having trouble breathing. Now, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have launched a clinical trial that is testing an old treatment in a new way. They're hoping to improve recovery and keep patients out of intensive care.

Tim Ameredes had the coronavirus. He said the symptoms hit hardest on Easter Sunday.

"I was coughing quite a bit. I got very winded, short of breath and my temperature also spiked over 102," he said.

Ameredes said the coughing continued for hours while he was at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

"My lungs were starting to shut down, so I had to go on oxygen and fortunately I stabilized because my oxygen levels were dropping," he said.

The next stop would have been intensive care. Instead, Ameredes was a go for a clinical trial using inhaled nitric oxide.

"Nitric oxide, once it's inhaled, seems to help the body actually fight the virus. It has antiviral properties," said Dr. Sitaramesh Emani, a cardiologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Emani is investigating giving the treatments in a new way, through a Bellerophon INOpulse® delivery system, instead of a face mask. The clinical trial calls for the nitric oxide to be delivered continuously, as long as it is needed. Researchers anticipate that could range from several days to about two weeks of treatment.

"We hope to see their breathing patterns improve, their need for extra oxygen decrease. Obviously then avoiding the need to go to the ICU," Emani said.

The scientists say there's already a sort of blueprint because COVID-19 is caused by a form of the SARS virus, which is similar to the strain that triggered the outbreak in 2003 and 2004.

Ameredes said, "I was still on oxygen when I went into the treatment, so they had a nasal tube that piped in oxygen and the nitric oxide. And then the following day they took me off of oxygen because I didn't need it."

Ameredes is now recovering at home and says he's feeling good.