Reasons for hope: the drugs, tests and tactics that may conquer coronavirus

Reuters
New Delhi, India Published: Apr 14, 2020, 08:29 AM(IST)

A doctor holding a coronavirus test result Photograph:( IANS )

Story highlights

While a safe, effective vaccine is still more than a year away, researchers are rushing to repurpose existing drugs and non-drug therapies as well as testing promising experimental drugs that were already in clinical trials.

With much of the world living in lockdown, the spread of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that was first detected in China late last year is beginning to slow in some places.

While a safe, effective vaccine is still more than a year away, researchers are rushing to repurpose existing drugs and non-drug therapies as well as testing promising experimental drugs that were already in clinical trials.

Also read: IMF approves debt relief for 25 poor countries to help them address coronavirus pandemic

Even moderately effective therapies or combinations could dramatically reduce the crushing demand on hospitals and intensive care units, changing the nature of the risk the new pathogen represents to populations and healthcare systems.

Also read: Deleted pages suggest China is cracking down on academic papers pertaining to COVID-19 

New drugs, together with new diagnostics, antibody tests, patient- and contact-tracing technologies, disease surveillance and other early-warning tools, mean the anticipated next “wave” of the global pandemic does not have to be nearly as bad the first.

Also read: Coronavirus is 10 times deadlier than swine flu: WHO

More than 70 vaccine candidates are also in development around the world, with at least five in preliminary testing in people. Here are some of the drugs, vaccines and other therapies in development:

*DRUGS*

REMDESIVIR - GILEAD SCIENCES

Antiviral drug, originally developed to combat RNA viruses including respiratory syncytial virus. At least 13 trials underway in China, Europe and the U.S. with preliminary results from two Chinese trials expected as soon as April 2020. A February assessment by the WHO flagged this candidate as the most promising for battling COVID-19.

CAVEATS: Initial data are expected to come from studies of patients with relatively severe COVID-19. Because antivirals work best when patients are healthier, those results may show limited effectiveness.

STATUS: Repurposed Experimental

EARLY RESULTS: 0-3 months

HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE/CHLOROQUINE

Malaria drug also believed to have antiviral activity. Blocked SARS-CoV-2 entry into cells in an in-vitro experiment. In one small French study, some COVID-19 patients showed improvements but there was no way to know if the drug was the reason. Results published in April from another study in France and one in China found no benefit in patients treated with the drug. Dozens more clinical studies are underway around the world.

STATUS: Repurposed

EARLY RESULTS: 0-3 months

Read in App