LIMA – Radiofrequency is showing unexpected promise in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Peru, helping with the recovery of people who have suffered collapsed lungs as a result of that potentially fatal respiratory disease.
Already used as a cancer therapy, the technique has demonstrated an ability to drain fluid, improve drug efficacy and boost the immune systems of coronavirus sufferers.
Fernando Valencia, a medical physicist at Lima’s National University of Engineering (UNI) and author of a study that showed the technique’s effectiveness in achieving significant and rapid improvement in patients experiencing pulmonary invasion as a result of SARS-CoV-2, discussed his findings in an interview with EFE.
Known by the initials DTAF, the procedure complements traditional treatments and can help keep many infected patients off of ventilators and improve the survival rates of those currently in intensive care units, the study showed.
It involves the “innocuous, painless and non-invasive” application of electromagnetic waves, which induce an “artificial fever” of no more than 39 C (102 F) to relieve patients’ pulmonary congestion and activate their immune systems.
Unlike the use of radiofrequency in cancer treatments, where the lung nodules (small masses of tissue) are very localized, COVID-19 produces “micronodules” that span the entire lung and cause it to collapse. With the use of electromagnetic waves, however, those micronodules can be effectively eliminated.
“Following a tomography, we choose the most damaged lung, the one whose hypoxemia (abnormally low level of oxygen in the blood) and hypoperfusion (decreased blood flow) will cause the patient’s death, and we perform a three-session sequence over three days,” Valencia said.
“There are real signs of recovery. Remission of the disease is evident,” the scientist said after testing the procedure on another doctor who became infected and volunteered for it while in a “moderate to severe” state.
“This doctor saw very little chance of survival,” the researcher said, adding that his colleague underwent three radiofrequency sessions with 13.56 MHz waves.
By eliminating the material obstructing patients’ alveoli (tiny air cells of the lungs), greater effectiveness also is achieved with certain drugs that had proved impotent with severely ill patients.
One such drug was an antiparasitic known as ivermectin, which in Peru has been widely used to treat patients in the early phases of COVID-19 but now can be effective in treating seriously ill patients once their lungs have been drained of excess fluid through radiofrequency.
“There’s an insistence on using drugs, but the drugs have their limitations. You’ve got to give those drugs some help, and we help them with radiofrequency. For them to be effective, a non-invasive (procedure) was needed to activate and modulate the immune system, and that activator is precisely the radiofrequency system,” Valencia said.
“In this way, we generate an immediate immune response and ensure that the drugs and antivirals that have been ineffective so far in severe patients get to where they need to go,” he added.
The cost of a mobile radiofrequency apparatus is roughly equivalent to that of a top-of-the-line ventilator. But whereas the latter is permanently connected to an ill patient for weeks pending an immune system response, some 30 patients a day can be treated with radiofrequency.
Valencia hailed the outstanding “potential and cost-effectiveness” of this technology in Peru, where a second wave of the virus has caused intensive-care units at the nation’s hospitals to fill up with COVID-19 patients.
It also remains clear when vaccines will arrive on a large scale in that Andean nation.
“We have a national patent that we could cede to solve our immediate problem,” said the scientist, who has developed this technology in recent years with support from the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (Fondecyt) and the Innovate Peru Program.
Still pending is a process – backed by the UNI’s vice president’s office for research – for getting the study published in a scientific journal. Permission for a clinical trial will then be sought from the Health Ministry or the National Health Institute (INS).
Fewer volunteers would be needed than for a vaccine or drug trial, since the procedure’s effectiveness can be demonstrated by applying radiofrequency in one lung per person and evaluating if that organ shows improvement vis-a-vis the untreated lung.
“We hope the entire scientific community becomes aware of our advances. I’m willing to offer this technology to other development groups in the country and also work in a multi-centric fashion with other countries,” Valencia said.
“We can’t complain. We have to make progress and seek out alternatives. I hope there’s an international response where we all get together,” said the researcher, whose country has registered more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 38,000 COVID-19-related deaths.