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UT Health studies vitamin to treat acute kidney injury caused by COVID-19

Frequently COVID patients with acute kidney injury develop acute lung injury as well.

SAN ANTONIO — When someone contracts COVID the lungs are the organ that is targeted most often by the deadly disease. But don't forget about the kidneys. 

UT Health San Antonio is part of a nationwide study with the goal to reduce the severity of acute kidney disease in patients with COVID-19 and potentially other types of acute kidney disease using form of a vitamin. 

"What we're doing is to give a compound called nicotinamide that protects mitochondrial function and protects the organs in in a patient that gets COVID," Dr. Kumar Sharma, one of UT Health San Antonio's kidney specialists told us.

Nicotinamide is a form of vitamin B3 which is present in small amounts of milk. The randomized study will test the safety of the compound to see if a biomarkers relevant to acute kidney injury can be improved. 

"Whenever anybody develops acute kidney injury, even without COVID, it's a very high mortality rate and hospitalization problems, often they will need dialysis," Dr. Sharma said.

Frequently COVID patients with acute kidney injury develop acute lung injury as well.

"And with COVID having a kidney injury on top of acute lung injury, it's a really devastating complication," Dr. Sharma added.  

UT Health San Antonio, is the coordinating center for the study. 60 patients have enrolled at University Hospital. 40 more patients have been enrolled at both the University of Washington at Seattle and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. The goal is to help COVID patients recover faster.

"So treatments like this, I think, is one of the first approaches on supporting the organs to withstand the damage that we see acutely and chronically," Dr. Sharma said.

As long as they find the treatment to be safe and effective in this study, it will be broadened out to a larger, more comprehensive study.