Scientists Latest Efforts to Develop Coronavirus Treatment

Tuesday, February 25, 2020 - 11:18

Pharmaceutical firms and research groups all around the world are making attempts to develop treatment for new virus.

According to an ISCA report, Coronaviruses have caused three outbreaks in humans in the past 20 years: they were responsible for SARS in 2002, MERS in 2012, and the ongoing outbreak spreading rapidly through China and around the world.

While finding ways to prevent and treat this new virus is the most pressing priority, in the long term, scientists have their eye on ways to prevent and treat any coronavirus — so that they’re prepared for the next one to come along.

Blood from cured coronavirus patients could help treat infection

On Thursday (Feb. 13), a Chinese senior health official called on people who had recovered from the new coronavirus to donate blood plasma, because it might contain valuable proteins that could be used to treat sick patients, according to The New York Times.

The call for plasma came after an announcement by the state-owned company, China National Biotec Group that these antibodies helped treat 10 critically ill patients, reducing their inflammation within 12 to 24 hours, according to the Times.

The approach is a logical and promising way to treat critically ill coronavirus patients, experts told Live Science. But because coronavirus has a low mortality rate, bypassing the normal drug testing process doesn't necessarily make sense, and doctors should be on high alert for possible side effects, they said.

Antibodies are proteins that the immune system makes to fight invaders such as viruses, bacteria or other foreign substances. Antibodies are specific to each invader. However, it takes time for the body to ramp up its production of antibodies to a completely new invader. If that same virus or bacteria tries to invade again in the future, the body will remember and quickly produce an army of antibodies.

Doctors fight coronavirus outbreak with drugs that target HIV, malaria and Ebola

As HIV drugs, stem cells and traditional Chinese medicines vie for a chance to prove their worth, the World Health Organization attempts to bring order to the search.

Among the potential treatments is an HIV medication that may work to block an enzyme the virus needs to mature.

An unapproved medicine used to fight the Ebola virus is being tested in Chinese patients to see whether it can disrupt the new virus’ genetic material.

And a third drug, widely used around the globe to fight the parasite that causes malaria, is also being tried in China to see if it can slow infection by preventing the virus from infiltrating cells.

The evidence behind some of these medicines is flimsy, researchers acknowledged. But the strategy is not unprecedented.

Hunt For New Coronavirus Treatments Includes Gene-Silencing And Monoclonal Antibodies

There are two basic approaches to stopping viral infections. One is to block an enzyme the virus needs either to make copies of itself or infect cells. The other is to make a monoclonal antibody, based on a recovered patient's immune response.

Researchers are already testing the first idea — with an experimental, broad-acting antiviral drug known as Remdesivir, which works by gumming up a virus's ability to replicate.

The drug is being tested in China on patients who have COVID-19. A study found that Remdesivir successfully reduced respiratory symptoms in rhesus monkeys exposed to another coronavirus that causes serious disease — Middle East respiratory syndrome.

In other work, the biopharmaceutical company Sirnaomics is hoping to use a gene-silencing technique known as RNA interference to turn off key genes in the new coronavirus. But first, the company must identify viral genes to target.

The second basic approach is to go after the virus with molecules derived from the immune system. The idea is to make what are called monoclonal antibodies, which are tailored proteins that are known to stop a particular virus.

Flu and HIV drugs show efficacy against coronavirus

A combination of flu and HIV medications may be able to treat severe cases of 2019-nCoV, the new coronavirus that has emerged in China, according to doctors in Thailand who have been caring for infected patients. The team’s approach, which used large doses of the flu drug oseltamivir combined with HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, improved the conditions of several patients at the Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok.

“This is not the cure, but the patient’s condition has vastly improved,” Rajavithi Hospital’s Kriangsak Atipornwanich says of one 70-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, according to Reuters. “From testing positive for 10 days under our care, after applying this combination of medicine the test result became negative within 48 hours.”

A universal coronavirus vaccine isn’t impossible to imagine. Most coronaviruses have a bit of protein on their surface that they use to latch on to the cells they are infecting, and they bind to the same receptor on those cells’ surfaces. That’s a possible target for vaccine development, said Florian Krammer, a professor and vaccine development expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The first Covid-19 vaccine in China is expected to be ready for clinical trials by the end of April, according to Xu Nanping, China’s vice-minister of science and technology, Clinical Trial Arena reports.

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