Michigan COVID-19 Update

The Department of Internal Medicine (my home) at the University of Michigan Medical Center devoted its weekly Grand Rounds to a discussion of the first 30 days of COVID-19 here.

Just last week, the hospital opened a new ward – the 32 bed RICU (Regional Infectious Containment Unit) – devoted to the care of COVID-19 patients, featuring negative pressure to keep materials from spreading beyond the unit.  The unit quickly filled and now encompasses 50 beds, devoted now only to the most serious cases.  The second patient ever encountered was a middle aged woman with lupus, Sjögren’s and preexisting lung disease who was already on Plaquenil plus some more potent immunosuppression.  In anticipation of compassionate use of the experimental antiviral remdesivir, she had her Plaquenil held, and she became rapidly worse, only to have the Plaquenil reinstated.  Despite continued Plaquenil, remdesivir, Actemra and steroids she remains on the ventilator at maximum support, still alive.

One huge leap forward was getting our own high throughput lab testing for coronavirus, not having to rely on sendouts or the low capacity CDC test.

Treatments pretty much follow the guidelines I’ve shared with you out of China on my blogs.  They do start Plaquenil a little higher, 600 mg twice daily vs. 400 mg, but otherwise dose it the same.  One new drug to creep onto the list of options is nitazoxanide (Alinia), approved by the FDA in 2004 for treatment of protozoal infections (cryptosporidiosis and giardia, both water borne buggers that can cause diarrhea, with crypto having become a particular problem in HIV patients).  It works by interfering with the pyruvate ferredoxin/flavodoxin oxidoreductase dependent electron transfer reaction, which is essential to anaerobic energy metabolism.  As such, it markedly modulates the survival, growth, and proliferation of a range of extracellular and intracellular protozoa, helminths, anaerobic and microaerophilic bacteria, in addition to viruses.  Nitazoxanide exhibited activity against the MERS coronavirus in the test tube, but there have been no reports of its clinical efficacy.

Three clinical trials are in progress at U of M.  Two employ remdesivir, one for moderate illness and one for severe illness.  Another employs sarlilumab (Kevzara), an anti-interleukin-6 monoclonal antibody, very similar to tocilizumab (Actemra), which I’ve discussed before.

So we plug along at U of M, looking to face a flood of new cases over the next 2 weeks.  They haven’t yet begun trying to coax the retirees back into harness, at least yet.  Stay tuned.

Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “Michigan COVID-19 Update

  1. Bob,

    Late last week there was an article from USA Today in our paper that quoted Daniel Kaul, a professor of infectious disease at the University of Michigan school of medicine..He said that after using hydroxychloroquine for several weeks, they saw no clear benefits for patients, but very clear side effects, including a change in the electrical patterns in some patients’ hearts, similar to the findings of a Brazilian study. He said that in the last week of march the University of Michigan stopped giving hydroxychloroquine except in the context of carefully controlled clinical drug studies.
    I would be interested in your thoughts on the subject
    Thanks, Chuck Clark


  2. Well, Uncle Chuck, controlled studies are the way to go. I doled out buckets of hydroxychloroquine over my 40 years, and only saw one patient with a heart problem, which occurred after many years of chronic dosing at a level too high for her body weight. The Chinese protocol for OHC is 600mg twice daily day one then 200 mg twice daily for 4 more days. I think it’s a regimen better suited to less sick outpatients early in the infection. Were I to go back to work, I’d want a Plaquenil prescription in my pocket as well as one for azithromycin 500 mg twice daily for 5 days. Maybe a little zinc, too (the Hadassic doctor Zev’s regimen). Kaul is an o.k. guy, even if he served on the peer review committee that decided I was over the hill last year.


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