Could the promise of vagus nerve stimulation be extended to the treatment of some COVID-19 patients? A study being conducted in Hospital Virgen del Carmen in Zarate, Argentina could prove this idea to be true.
Researchers at Hospital Virgen del Carmen are evaluating the therapeutic effect of transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) in patients with pneumonia associated with the disease.
The technology being used in the study is the Vitality Smartcable taVNS device supplied by Nemechek Technologies. The company was founded in 2019 by Patrick Nemechek, D.O. and Jean Nemechek in 2019.
In the study patients will receive taVNS for 5 minutes 4 times a day. After patient consent, stimulation will be given to adults with moderate or severe pneumonia not requiring mechanical ventilation, or critical pneumonia requiring a mechanical ventilator. Study patients will continue to receive standard of care treatment. Patients who choose not to receive taVNS therapy will continue to receive standard care treatment. The results obtained in patients treated with taVNS plus standard treatment and patients with standard treatment alone will be compared.
Some COVID-19 patients have an excessive inflammatory immune response known as a "cytokine storm." Vagus nerve stimulation is shown to suppress inflammatory reactions and may be useful in controlling the hyper-immune response that can lead to lung failure and death. Stimulation of vagus nerve fibers in the ear activates what is known as the "inflammatory reflex." Much like the baroreflex that controls blood pressure, the inflammatory reflex signals the body to naturally regulate its immune response.
News of the study comes as COVID-19 rates are increasing in the U.S. There are about 3.2 million cases in the U.S. ;135,342 deaths; and 1.4 million people that have recovered, according to data from worldometers.info.