CHICAGO (CBS) — In the battle against COVID-19, the University of Illinois at Chicago has received $6 million from the federal government to test a potential drug to treat severe complications from infections with the coronavirus.

The university noted that severe cases of COVID-19 can result in complications such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, in which fluid from the bloodstream leaks into the lungs and causes difficulty breathing. It lead to a serious infection, which in turn can lead to an immune overreaction called a cytokine storm that can further damage the lungs.

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These complications often put people on ventilators and are thought to contribute to the death of COVID-19 patients. ARDS has a mortality rate of about 50 percent, and there are no treatments for ARDS or cytokine storms.

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The new funds are being used to test a drug called VT-109, which has been shown to help restore function to damaged lungs and reduce cytokine levels in animal tests.

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Researchers hope the testing will one day lead to clinical trials in humans, but say that could take three or four more years.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff