LONDON, ONT -- A team of researchers from the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ont. are attempting a world first treatment for COVID-19 patients with sepsis.

Using a control trial with 60 patients at London Health Science Centre (LHSC) the team is hoping a protein called annexin A5 can be used to help patients with sepsis.

“In the most severe cases, it’s complicated by hyperinflammation that can lead to sepsis, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and multi-organ failure,” said Dr. Claudio Martin with Lawson and LHSC.

Annexin A5 is a human protein that has strong ant-inflammatory properties. The team will be using a manufactured form of the protein in their trial.

Sepsis occurs when the body’s response to an infection is out of balance, triggering hyperinflammation, which can lead to organ failure.

Many critically ill COVID-19 patients develop sepsis one to two days before developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and organ failure.

This is the first time annexin A5 will be tested as a sepsis treatment in humans.

A previous Lawson based study found that the protein can block inflammation and improve organ function and survival when treating sepsis in animals.

“The ultimate goal is to determine whether this drug reduces hyperinflammation associated with sepsis in order to prevent respiratory and multi-organ failure,” said Martin.

The team also hopes the drug can prevent cell death and blood clots associated with COVID-19.

If the trial is successful, the next step will be to run a larger multi-hospital trial to further test the drug’s effectiveness.