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How COVID-19 kills 

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COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, invades a patient’s lungs and greatly reduces their ability to deliver oxygen.

According to UCHealth Today, a publication of UCHealth, which operates city-owned Memorial Hospitals, many cases of the disease involve acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The condition was first described by University of Colorado pulmonologist the late Dr. Tom Petty in 1967. He also was the first to prove the benefits of oxygen use in COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which at that time was widely believed to be detrimental to patients with chronic lung disease, according to the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.

ARDS, UCHealth Today reports, causes the tiny air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, to fill with fluid, keeping oxygen from getting into the bloodstream. The result can be respiratory failure. COVID-19 can cause ARDS, Dr. Marc Moss, head of the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told UCHealth Today.

Moss says the virus infects the cells of the lungs and damages the barrier between the alveoli and capillaries, allowing fluid to flood the air sacs.

UCHealth is one of six hospitals in Colorado and 73 nationwide that belong to 12 clinical centers that make up the Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung Injury (PETAL) Network.

Funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the network recently received approval and funding for a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug used to treat patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. UCHealth will serve as a trial site, UCHealth Today reports.

While President Donald Trump and others have claimed the drug can successfully treat COVID-19, there’s little supporting evidence.

The Food and Drug Administration on March 29 issued an emergency authorization for use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat patients hospitalized with COVID-19, but the European Union and the World Health Organization say the science doesn’t support the decision, The Lancet reports.

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