JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — University of Mississippi Medical Center leaders said Wednesday that physicians and researchers there will conduct several clinical trials on potential treatment options for people infected with the new coronavirus.
“This is important for the country, it’s important for our state and mostly it’s important for the patients to have that understanding of what actually would be valid and important and helpful treatment modalities,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, a physician who is the medical center's top executive.
The clinical trials at UMMC are in partnership with other institutions and with the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes for Health. The medical center will be one of 44 sites to test hydroxychloroquine, a drug that modulates the immune system and has long been used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
“The goal is to determine if it prevents death and respiratory failure from patients who have COVID-19 if it is instituted early in their course,” said Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research at UMMC.
President Donald Trump has promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19, but the drug has major potential side effects, especially for the heart. The FDA says people should not take it without a prescription and emphasizes that the malaria drugs being explored “are not FDA-approved for treatment of COVID-19.”
Mississippi had at least 3,360 confirmed cases and 122 deaths from the coronavirus as of Tuesday evening, according to numbers released Wednesday by the state Health Department. That was an increase of 273 cases and 11 deaths from the previous day. The state’s population is about 3 million.
The Health Department said cases have been confirmed in at least 66 long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
Mississippi remains under Gov. Tate Reeves's statewide stay-at-home order until at least early next week. Many businesses are closed, and tens of thousands have applied for state unemployment benefits.
Reeves on Tuesday said public school buildings will remain closed the rest of the semester, but he encouraged schools to continue distance-learning efforts. His original order to close schools began in mid-March and had been set to expire this Friday. Reeves said he extended the closures after consulting with health experts.