Treatments under Investigation, With a vaccine seeming like a distant dream, what other treatments are being looked into?
As of now, there is no specific treatment that has been proven to cure COVID-19. The world is working together to develop or modify drugs to counter the situation. With the air rife with rumours and fake news propagated by platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp, let’s take a look at the true potential of some of the drugs being considered by bodies like the WHO as a solution to the problem:
Treatments under Investigation, This drug has made waves lately as it was touted by US President Donald Trump as “very powerful”. The United States has been scrambling to stockpile this drug, even making threats of ‘retaliation’ when their attempts are rebuffed. But how useful is it in treating cases of Coronavirus?
Chloroquine has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and malaria. Even though it has been found to inhibit growth in some forms of SARS, no benefit has been seen in animal models so far. Chloroquine acts to neutralise acids. Viruses, which enter the body by making an acidic ‘compartment’ of sorts, could be prevented from infecting host cells and replicating.
The main advantages being cited for chloroquine so far are that it has a long history of clinical use, the safety profile is well established, and it is cheap and relatively easy to manufacture, so it would—theoretically—be fairly easy to accelerate into clinical trials and, if successful, eventually into treatment.
Even still, there is absolutely no evidence that chloroquine is effective in people infected with COVID-19 so far.
Kaletra is a combination of two antiviral drugs—lopinavir and ritonavir—normally used to treat HIV. Lopinavir was identified after the 2003 SARS outbreak as a potential treatment.
Convincing evidence of its effect, however, was lacking. Recently, researchers from China tested the efficacy and safety of oral lopinavir-ritonavir for SARS-CoV-2 infection through a randomised controlled trial but found “no benefit” beyond standard care.
However, a new trial looking at the effectiveness of lopinavir-ritonavir combined with low-dose steroids has just started at the University of Oxford. The trial team hopes that the additional steroids might enhance antiviral effects and improve clinical outcomes. But, as of now, Kaletra isn’t an effective treatment.
This antiviral drug gained a lot of media attention after a Chinese official told reporters that studies had found it to be “clearly effective” in treating COVID-19. In reality, researchers from Wuhan, China, reported that the drug was “preferred” over the antiviral Arbidol for patients with COVID-19 and pneumonia, but wasn’t a conclusive treatment.
Evidently, there is no panacea that can cure all ills. All people can do for now is refrain from believing in and spreading unfounded rumours and obey social distancing guidelines to limit the spread of the disease, until a cure is inevitably found.