The AIIMS is conducting a pilot study to assess the effect of low dose radiation therapy in alleviating symptoms of pneumonia in coronavirus-infected patients. Dr D N Sharma, head of the Radiation Oncology department at AIIMS and the principal investigator of the research project, said two COVID-19 patients who were on oxygen support were given the therapy last Saturday and their condition has improved since then.
“Both the patients, aged above 50, who are admitted at the National Cancer Institute, AIIMS, Jhajjar Centre are off the oxygen support now,” Dr Sharma said.
“Radiation therapy usually is given in high doses for cancer treatment but in this case we are giving a safe low dose of radiation at 70 cGy in one sitting to the patient,” he elaborated.
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The entire treatment takes around 15 to 20 minutes and has no side-effects. According to Sharma, this treatment mode was used till 1940s for treating pneumonia when there were no antibiotics.
Under the pilot project, eight more patients will undergo the therapy after which the data of the results will be analysed. If the therapy is found is to be effective in COVID-19 treatment in moderate to severe cases, the research project would be expanded further. “Similar studies are being conducted in the US, Spain and Italy also,” Sharma said.
The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 11,903, while the number of cases climbed to 3,54,065 on Wednesday.
The government on Saturday released a revised protocol for the treatment of coronavirus infection, allowing use of antiviral drug remdesivir in moderate cases and hydroxychloroquine in patients during the early course of the disease.
It also recommended off-label application of tocilizumab, a drug that modifies the immune system or its functioning, and convalescent plasma for treating coronavirus-infected patients in moderate stage of the illness, besides adding loss of smell or taste to the list of COVID-19 symptoms.