The coronavirus was discovered in China in December. Ever since, scientists have been working on potential treatments.
Those efforts stepped up considerably as the virus ravaged the globe. The latest statistics show over 4.2 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 284,000 deaths.
Here in the United States, we have more than 1.3 million confirmed cases and over 78,00 deaths. We’ve been hit harder than any other country.
Some groups are working on antiviral drugs to treat infected people. Others are developing vaccines as a preventative measure against COVID-19.
Pre-approved Drugs Sought First
Which treatments are we most likely to see first? Drugs that have already been approved for use against other viruses.
No drug or cure has yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the coronavirus.
Some doctors have prescribed chloroquine for coronavirus patients. It’s used to prevent and treat malaria. The FDA approved it for emergency use. But a clinical study ended when some patients developed irregular heartbeats.
In China, an antiviral drug called Favilavir was approved as a treatment for COVID-19.
Variety of Drugs in Development
Other drugs in the process of development include Remdesivir. It was inadequate as an Ebola drug. But The New England Journal of Medicine says it appeared to improve the condition of a patient.
Another drug being tested in China is Actemra. The clinical trial just ended, but results are not yet available.
Galidesivir has shown hope against viruses including Ebola, Zika and Yellow Fever.
Kevzara is approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. It’s another drug being tested for performance against the coronavirus. It causes an overactive inflammatory response in the lungs of COVID-19 patients.
Kaletra is a combination of two drugs. It has proven capable in the treatment of HIV.
Much Testing Ahead
Dr. Bruce Y. Lee is a professor at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.
He said, “People are looking into whether existing antivirals might work. Or whether new drugs could be developed to try to tackle the virus.”
But don’t expect anything to happen soon. FDA officials say it could be a full year before drugs for the coronavirus treatment are available to the public.
That’s due to extensive testing required before the agency can declare a drug safe. And determine proper dosages.
Quick Usage Is Key
Antivirals being tested in infected people work in different ways. Some block a virus from infecting cells. Others prevent it from replicating.
The key with antivirals is to administer them quickly. Otherwise, the virus can cause damage to lungs and other tissues. And multiply significantly.
But here’s the problem. Most coronavirus patients don’t know they’re sick until they’ve been infected for several days or more.
Still, approval of antivirals will come well before a vaccine is approved.
ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 & Fusogenix DNA?
But the race is on to find that vaccine. There are at least 25 different vaccines being developed around the world.
Among them is the Fusogenix DNA vaccine. The goal is to develop a payload containing multiple protein epitopes. They’re derived from SARS-COV-2 proteins.
The University of Oxford in England is developing an adenovirus vaccine. It’s called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. A clinical trial will start soon.
The development of a clinical-stage, human monoclonal antibody is also being advanced. It’s called Gimsilumab.
Tricking the Immune System
The goal of a vaccine is to train the immune system to recognize a virus. And attack it right away. The body practices fighting the disease by making antibodies.
Ideally, if the person is exposed to that disease, he or she already has antibodies in place to combat it.
The use of vaccines is a controversial subject. Although they don’t give a person the disease they aim to fight, they’ve sometimes made recipients ill.
Here’s what CNN medical analyst Kent Sepkowitz says. “Some experts fear that if a COVID-19 vaccine does its job provoking the immune system, the body could go into a destructive overdrive when exposed to the actual virus.”
Vaccines Normally Take Years
There has been talk of a COVID-19 vaccine being ready by this fall. But most medical experts consider that overly ambitious.
“Even January 2021 is quite early for a safe and capable vaccine to be available for millions of people.” So says Sepkowitz.
Vaccines usually take years to develop. The mumps vaccine took four years. The Ebola vaccine required five.
That’s due to the extensive amount of testing time required. When they do not produce the desired result, changes to the vaccine must be made.
Shortcuts Are Risky
One scenario being discussed in the creation of a vaccine is “cutting corners.” That means, taking risks to speed up the process.
Normally, three phases occur. Then a manufacturer applies for a license to market a vaccine for human use. Each phase includes an increasing number of volunteers.
A faster one would involve loosening the rules. Tests for each phase would be run at the same time.
This is a very dangerous game. A certain percentage of volunteers are likely to get sick and some will die. Scientists are calling it an “ethical minefield.” This strategy would only be used if they believed the alternative would be even worse.
We’re going to hear a lot about antiviral drugs for the foreseeable future. And about vaccine development. We’ll help keep you informed as much as possible.