MIAMI (WSVN) - Treatments for COVID-19 are still in the research and development phase, but a patient in Miami is the first to undergo a treatment normally used for people with respiratory ailments.

The patient, who was diagnosed at the University of Miami School of Medicine is testing an inhalation therapy that doctors hope will eventually help save countless lives.

Dr. Roger Alvarez, who is treating the patient and spoke with 7News on Tuesday, said he decided inhaled nitric oxide could help because it improves oxygen levels.

“It’s used off label all around the world every day for treatment of patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome in general, as well as patients after cardiac surgery,” he said.

Nitric oxide helps blood flow through the body by widening and relaxing blood vessels in the lungs.

“I have many patients using it for other conditions right now who manage their own oxygen, who manage their own nitric oxide,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez called the Food and Drug Administration and applied for an emergency exemption for expanded use of the Bellerophon Therapeutics INOpulse device, which delivers the inhaled nitric oxide.

“We began treatment within about 24 hours, with the inhaled nitric oxide delivery system, using the INOpulse device,” said Alvarez.

What is useful about the device is its size. It’s small, portable and easy to use.

So far, Alvarez said, results are promising for his patient.

“I can tell you they’re doing better, much better, and actually, last I heard as of yesterday, this morning — I have not seen the patient yet — they were off of oxygen and preparing to go home,” he said.

Alvarez hopes his discovery will lead to clinical trials using inhaled nitric oxide for treatment of COVID-19.

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