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Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is one of the first sites to begin testing the safety and efficacy of the drug canakinumab for use as a COVID-19 treatment.

The drug, which is approved to treat a type of juvenile arthritis, will be tested for the treatment of a severe immune overreaction called cytokine release syndrome, which has been occurring in some patients with COVID-19 pneumonia.

Canakinumab works by neutralizing a protein called Interleukin-1β, a key component of the body's natural inflammatory response. Neutralizing this protein may help suppress the uncontrolled, deregulated inflammation seen in COVID-19.

"It can kind of snowball on itself," says Benjamin Van Tassel, Pharm.D., a professor at VCU's School of Pharmacy and a co-investigator on the study, speaking about inflammation seen in COVID-19 in a press release. "A little bit of inflammation can trigger more inflammation, which triggers more and more. And that seems to be the most dangerous part of a COVID-19 infection: when you enter into this hyper-inflammatory state."

The phase 3 clinical trial will enroll volunteer COVID-19 patients who are experiencing cytokine release syndrome and who require oxygen but do not require a ventilator.

In addition to studying canakinumab, VCU researchers are in the process of studying antiviral drug remdesivir and a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis called sarilumab as possible COVID-19 treatments as well. Continued research is required to determine the safest and most effective treatment for COVID-19 and its associated symptoms.

Read more about the clinical trial.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now to hear about the state of mental health and why many people fear returning to their social and work lives.

HealthDay's Mabel Jong spoke to Dr. Vivian Pender, president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Sherry Amatenstein, a social worker and therapist who has been dealing with these anxieties herself.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

HD Live! Videos

Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we dive into the latest details on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Mary Beth Son, Program Director of Boston Children's Hospital's Rheumatology Program, and Brian Padla, father of James Padla, who has MIS-C.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.


Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we debunk myths about the COVID-19 vaccines and talk about what the new CDC guidelines for vaccinated people mean.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and one of the physicians on the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, and Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, Vice Chair of Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we take a look at how living through the COVID-19 pandemic impacts children socially, mentally and emotionally.

One year in, this is their "new normal," but what does that mean for them? From social isolation to remote learning to a loss of structure and normalcy, we discuss how living during the pandemic has both short- and long-term effects on children.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with:

  • Dr. Mark Reinecke, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University
  • Tracy Compton, a parent
  • Stephen Guerriero, a teacher
  • Jake Anderson, a student

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a look at the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination rollout and how they've impacted people of color.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with:

  • Tasha Clark-Amar, CEO, East Baton Rouge Council on Aging
  • Jill Ramirez, Executive Director, Latino HealthCare Forum (Austin)
  • Vickie Mays, PhD, Professor, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a look at the global COVID-19 vaccination rollout and how the United States rollout compares.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Ran Balicer of Clalit Health Services and Dr. Arnold Monto of University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

UPDATE 1/26/21: Since our HD Live! interview with CEO Andrei Doroshin, the Philadelphia Health Department has severed its ties with the organization. The nonprofit has changed its status to a for-profit entity.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a look at Philly Fighting Covid, a nonprofit organization run by graduate students from Drexel University that aims to help with mass COVID-19 vaccination in Philadelphia.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Andrei Doroshin, founder of Philly Fighting Covid.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a deep dive into the vaccine rollout across the country.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of the Biden COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a deep dive into the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccines, including the rollout process, potential side effects, supply and distribution.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and one of the physicians on the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.