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HUNTINGTON — Marshall University researchers have initiated a new study to determine whether an open label, activated charcoal regimen affects the severity of symptoms in COVID-19-positive patients.

The study, administered by the Marshall Clinical Research Center at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, will monitor the symptoms of participants over a two-week period. Study participants will take the medication provided as instructed and report symptoms to study administrators during weekly calls.

“As the spread of COVID-19 continues, our patients in West Virginia and the Tri-State area, because of preexisting conditions such as obesity, are particularly at risk for COVID’s most severe outcome — the overwhelming inflammation, or so-called ‘cytokine storm,’ in the lungs,” said Uma Sundaram, M.D., vice dean of research and graduate education at the School of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator. “We think activated charcoal can reduce the formation of chemicals made in the intestine by bacteria which are capable of worsening the lung disease.”

Sundaram added that prevention by wearing masks, social distancing and regular hand-washing is still the best course of action to contain the coronavirus pandemic until proven vaccines and treatments become available. The study will conduct a comparative analysis based on age and gender of patients who elect to receive this treatment with those who do not. The goal is to determine if activated charcoal, by reducing the substances made in the colon, can blunt the severity of the lung diseases caused by COVID-19.

It will seek to determine if activated charcoal can reduce shortness of breath or the need for oxygen therapy; lessen or eliminate hospitalization; and, if hospitalized, reduce or avoid the serious consequences including intensive care unit stays and mechanical ventilation.

Approximately 250 patients will be enrolled in each part of the trial.

The medication, which will be provided for free, will be shipped overnight directly to patients by Marshall Pharmacy to avoid any unnecessary risks of exposure. Study participants will not receive compensation for participation. This project (IRB No. 1632953) was reviewed by the Marshall University Institutional Review Board in the Office of Research Integrity, a group not associated with the study. For more information or to enroll in the study, contact the Marshall Clinical Research Center at 304-691-1836.