First Coronavirus Drug Trial Underway In Omaha

A doctor at UNMC in Omaha is leading a clinical trial to test a drug to combat coronavirus, the first in the United States to evaluate treatment for COVID-19.

Dr. Andre Kalil is an infectious diseases specialist and professor of internal medicine who is in charge of the trial.

The trial will be conducted to see if the former Diamond Princess passengers who eventually arrived in Omaha with coronavirus will respond to a therapy developed for ebola patients.

National health officials believe they could soon have an answer as to whether it works. "I'm optimistic we will at least get an answer, if we do have a therapy," NAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told 6 News. "That's really a game-changer. Then, we could do something as an intervention for those who are sick."

The trial will begin at UNMC but eventually be conducted internationally, gathering participants from sites all over the world, Dr. Kalil says.

Those allowed in the trial have to be a little sicker than a mild disease, something beyond the common cold, he says. They must have tested positive for COVID-19 and have the virus already in the respiratory tract.

"These are the patients who are going to require a more aggressive treatment — that's the goal of the trial," Kalil tells 6 News.

The first 57 people to come to Omaha were from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. They left quarantine at Camp Ashland last week. None ended up testing positive for COVID-19.

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