CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 3,500 COVID-19 related deaths have now been reported in the United States. That number tops those reported in all of China, but there is a hopeful sign right here in Chicago. COVID-19 patients are undergoing an experimental treatment at Northwestern with a drug that was used to treat Ebola patients.

Now two hospitals, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, are part of an international trial to see if it could help treat COVID-19 as well. It is a double-blind trial, meaning that neither the doctor nor the patients knows if they’re on the drug, but they are hopeful they could see some results soon.

“This is one looking at an agent specifically targeting the virus,” said Dr. Michael Angarone, a Northwestern Medicine infectious disease physician. “And so we’re all really hopeful that this is going to show some benefit. Obviously ideal would be this shows benefit to everyone no matter what stage of disease you have.”

The drug being tested is called remdesivir, an anti-viral drug developed to treat Ebola. It has been effective in treating coronaviruses and is injected intravenously.

This is a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial, but there is a board that will be monitoring which patients are taking it and what their progress is to see if the drug is effective.

Dr. Richard Novak, the principal investigator on the UIC trial, said he has one 88-year-old patient enrolled in the study whose symptoms appear to be improving.

“Whether or not the drug is playing a role, she does seem to be recovering. And she is in a high risk group for doing poorly, so I’m pleased that she’s getting better,” Novak said.

This drug is one of two that are currently being studied as therapeutic options for COVID-19 patients. The other drug is hydroxycloroquine. It is a drug used to treat malaria and has been in use since the 1950s. There is currently a 2,000 person study underway to test whether that drug could also be helpful in treating COVID-19.

Megan Hickey