S.A. doctors testing statins for swine flu patients with "white lung"
by Wendy Rigby / KENS 5
Posted on December 16, 2009 at 3:03 PM
Updated today at 3:03 PM
San Antonio patients are helping test a new kind of therapy for lung problems caused by the swine flu. It’s a promising new use of a common mediation for cholesterol.
An x-ray shows disturbing images of Oscar Garcia’s lungs back in September, swollen and filled with fluid after he developed complications from the H1N1 swine flu. “So they put me in an ambulance, put me on oxygen, and the next thing I know, I’m waking up three weeks later in ICU,” Garcia explained.
Garcia, an otherwise healthy 41-year-old man, spent four weeks in critical condition at University Hospital, where doctors tried something new. In his IV, they administered statin drugs, the kind of medication used to lower cholesterol. In this case, it was used to target lung inflammation, the “white lung” that was threatening Garcia’s life.
“For reasons we don’t fully understand, this virus loves to go inside the lungs,” said Dr. Antonio Anzueto, a pulmonary critical care specialist at the U.T. Health Science Center and section chief at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System. “It swells the lungs and your x-ray will look completely white.”
Anzueto is hopeful this new approach will prove beneficial for the patients he’s been seeing who are severely sickened from a bout with the swine flu. The National Institutes of Health is sponsoring the study here and across the nation.
Garcia feels lucky he got the intense care he needed, and he’s on the road to full recovery. “I guarantee you I’ll get my shot every year,” he added.
Anzueto said, “There is some talk ‘oh, you know, the pandemic is over.’ On the other hand, the prediction is we are sitting at the bottom of a huge tsunami. The huge stuff is coming down. So there is an urgency to recognize and study this.”
The sense of urgency on the national level is what sparked this study. Anzueto says as soon as April, there should be some firm answers about whether statins can help save the lives of critical swine flu patients.