What progress is being made in coronavirus treatments?


We present you a summary of the most important investigations in the search for a cure for the disease that causes SARS-CoV-2 and what results have been obtained to date

Since it first emerged in late December in the Chinese province of Wuhan, the coronavirus has had a devastating effect on the population.

Millions of people have been infected, thousands have died in almost every corner of the world, and entire economies have been paralyzed by the confinement measures imposed to slow the advance of the virus.

International teams of scientists have put all their resources into finding an effective treatment for people who develop the severe form of the diseaseas well as a vaccine.

The first drugs with positive effects are currently being identified.

Here we tell you what the research on treatments is, what are the lines of research being followed and which drugs have shown the most promise.

What work is being done to find a treatment?

More of 150 drugs different are being investigated in different countries of the world. Most are investigations about existing drugs whose effectiveness is being tested against the coronavirus.

  • UK is conducting the largest clinical trial in the world called Recovery, with 12,000 patients. It is one of the few trials that has given a definitive view on which drugs are working and which are not.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is doing a baptized trial Solidarity, to evaluate treatments that have shown promise in different countries of the world
  • Multiple companies pharmaceutical they are doing their own drug trials

In general, the research is divided into three approaches:

  • Antiviral drugs that directly affect the coronavirus’s ability to thrive within the body.
  • Drugs that appease the immune system (Severe cases of covid-19 occur when the immune system overreacts and ends up damaging the body.)
  • Antibodies They can target the virus, taken from the blood of covid survivors, or made in the laboratory.

Different drugs may work better at different stages. For example, antivirals may be more effective early in the disease, while drugs that target the immune system are better at a later stage.

A combination of therapies is also being studied.

The only one that saves lives

Of all the drugs being tested, only one has been shown to save lives – the dexamethasone– and this has been a significant advance in the fight against the coronavirus.

The Recovery trial showed that the drug reduces the risk of death in one third for patients connected to a fan and in one fifth in those who receive oxygen.

Dexamethasone
Dexamethasone has been shown to reduce the risk of death in hospitalized patients with covid-19. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dexamethasone is a steroid than quell inflammation (a reaction that is part of the immune response) in the body.

A crucial element is that it is also a drug cheap, which means it can be used worldwide.

What other drugs look promising?

Remdesivir it is an antiviral drug that was originally developed to treat Ebola.

Clinical trials with more than 1,000 people found that the duration of symptoms is reduced from 15 to 11. It has not been shown to save lives, although studies of its effects continue.

U.S has purchased almost all supplies of this drugalthough an amount was donated to South Korea by Gilead, the pharmaceutical company that produces it.

Illustration of the coronavirus and a drug
Some drugs have been shown to be better early in the disease, while others are more useful in later stages. (Photo: Getty Images)

Interferon beta is a protein that the body normally produces to reduce inflammation. It is used as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

The first results of the research on this treatment indicate that it reduces the possibilities of hospitalized patients of developing the severe form of the disease, but larger clinical trials are needed to substantiate its effect.

However, the drug does not work in people with mild symptoms.

Can HIV drugs work to treat the coronavirus?

Not.

A couple of drugs, calls lopinavir and ritonavirThey are antivirals that prevent HIV from replicating.

Patient admitted with covid-19
HIV drugs do not work with SARS-CoV-2. (Photo: Getty Images)

Much has been said about them, and even laboratory studies have hinted that they may also be effective against the coronavirus.

However, the Recovery trial demonstrated that they are ineffective and the WHO also removed these drugs from its Solidarity trial.

Can antimalarial drugs treat coronavirus?

Again, the answer is no.

The chloroquine, and the related drug hydroxychloroquineThey can have antiviral and calming properties to the immune system.

These drugs were widely publicized as potential therapies for treating covid-19 because of, mostly, the comments the US president made about them, Donald Trump, and because initial laboratory tests showed that it could inhibit the coronavirus.

But, the Recovery trial found that hydroxychloroquine it does not work As a treatment for covid-19, the WHO discontinued trials with this drug.

Can the blood of covid-19 survivors serve to treat coronavirus sufferers?

People who survive the infection should have antibodies that can attack the virus.

Coronavirus
Convalescent plasma treatment has not been shown to work for covid-19. (Photo: Getty Images)

The idea is to extract blood plasma (the part that contains antibodies) from people who have recovered to give to the sick.

This “convalescent plasma” therapy has worked with other diseases, but not yet with the covid.

How long before finding a cure?

We may never find a “cure” for the coronavirus.

We don’t have one for the flu or the common cold or other similar infections.

Social distance
Without a cure and without a vaccine, it is not possible to lift all the measures of confinement and social distance without running the risk of a new wave of infections. (Photo: Getty Images)

However, now There is a treatment that works and another that seems promising.

Researchers are testing drugs that have already been developed and are known to be safe to use, with trials expected to be done relatively soon.

This marks a contrast with vaccine trials (which protect you against infection instead of treating it), where researchers have to start from scratch.

Some completely new experimental drugs are also being tested in the laboratory, but are not yet ready for human trials.

Click here to see the BBC interactive Click here to see the BBC interactive

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