LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

LSU Health Study Shows Promise of NB-UVB Phototherapy in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients

June 3, 2022

graphical abstract

A randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study led by Frank Lau, MD, FACS, Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has found that narrow-band ultraviolet B (NB-UVB) phototherapy is safe and decreased death in a small group of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The results are published online in Experimental Dermatology, available here.

While hospitalized and not requiring positive-pressure oxygen supplementation or critical care, the 30 subjects were treated every 24 hours with escalating doses of NB-UVB or placebo. No adverse events occurred. The 28-day mortality in the NB-UVB treatment group was 13.3% vs.33.3% in the placebo arm. Reduced mortality was observed in both unvaccinated and fully or partially vaccinated patients.

The skin is a complex organ containing a reservoir of photo-reactive cells that communicate extensively with the immune system. Exposure to UV radiation triggers numerous molecular responses in the skin, activating immune responses, including decreased pathologic inflammation and improved intracellular killing of pathogens.

“Ultraviolet light helps stabilize our immune system in many diseases, including psoriasis, some types of skin cancer, and even in transplant patients,” says Dr. Lau. “We implemented a gold standard clinical trial where high-risk, hospitalized COVID patients were treated with ultraviolet light. The results from the pilot phase of this trial suggest that shining our narrow-band ultraviolet lights for a few minutes each day saved lives.”

As the pilot phase of a larger clinical trial, this study was underpowered to detect statistically significant differences in clinical outcomes between treatment arms.

“The next steps are to perform molecular analyses of blood from these patients to confirm a mechanism of action and to proceed with the larger clinical trial that will have the statistical power to show the benefit of this novel treatment,” Lau concludes.

The LSU Health New Orleans research team also included Catherine E. Powell, Giacomo Adonecchi, and Dr. Denise M. Danos. Drs. Andrew R. DiNardo from Baylor, Robert J. Chugden from West Jefferson Medical Center, Peter Wolf from the Medical University of Graz, and Carmen F. Castilla from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine also participated.

The study was funded by Cytokind, Inc.

Dr. Castilla is a consultant to the sponsor. No other authors have a conflict to disclose.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans (LSU Health New Orleans) educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's health sciences university leader, LSU Health New Orleans includes a School of Medicine with branch campuses in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSU Health New Orleans faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research, the LSU Health New Orleans research enterprise generates jobs and enormous annual economic impact. LSU Health New Orleans faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment or cure disease. To learn more, visit,, or

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