Coronavirus Outbreak: With no vaccine, nations rely on existing drugs

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Published: March 30, 2020 7:20:23 AM

Without vaccines or a new cure, nations are relying on existing, approved drugs/vaccines for other diseases with mixed reports of efficacy.

SARS CoV-2 infections, coronavirus lockdown, covid 19 cases, antimalarials,  Covid-19 patients , coronavirus symptoms, latest news on coronavirusA US-based research group, publishing in bioRxiv, reported 66 SARS CoV-2 protein-human protein interactions that can be targeted by 69 FDA-approved drugs. (Representational image)

On Sunday, there were 677,938 cases of SARS CoV-2 infections around the globe and 31,746 died of Covid 19. Nearly 3 billion people are under partial or full lockdown, with the most extensive ones being enforced in India, China, France, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa and the UK (where the Prime Minister tested positive on Friday).

Without vaccines or a new cure, nations are relying on existing, approved drugs/vaccines for other diseases with mixed reports of efficacy. While India has cleared the use of anti-malarial chloroquine and hudroxychloroquine as a prophylactic for healthcare workers at the frontline of the fight against Covid-19, the US is testing the antimalarials, apart from remdesivir, Gilead’s Ebola antiviral that didn’t fire at the time.

Favipiravir, a drug developed by a subsidiary of Japanese photo-film giant Fujifilm, was tried on 340 Covid-19 patients in China’s Wuhan and Shenzhen, and Chinese medical authorities claim that subjects had tested negative for the virus in a median of four days after being detected as positive, compared to the median of 11 days for those who had not received the drug.

Many countries, including India, have included restricted use of the fixed combination antiretroviral used in treating HIV, lopinavir/ritonavir, even though Chinese scientists reported that a controlled trial involving 199 SARS CoV-2 positive subjects, divided into two groups, didn’t return any significant positives over the standard treatment protocol.

Many Covid-19-affected countries, including China, have also cleared restricted use of Interferon Alfa2B that was jointly developed by Cuban and Chinese scientists —Cuba has lent its medical and paramedical personnel to some of the worst-affected Covid nations. A recombinant version of the human interferon alpha 2 released by virus-infected cells that interferes in the viral infection of other cells, Alfa2B has been used in cancer treatment, treatment of liver diseases, human papillomavirus, etc.

A US-based research group, publishing in bioRxiv, reported 66 SARS CoV-2 protein-human protein interactions that can be targeted by 69 FDA-approved drugs.

Australia and the Netherlands are rolling out trials involving healthcare workers being inoculated with the anti-tuberculosis BCG vaccine. There are various studies showing a high degree of correlation with BCG vaccination and reduced vulnerability to a host of diseases, though vaccine’s efficacy against tuberculosis has become patchy.

The WHO on March 20 listed two vaccine candidates — one in China and the other in the US — that have reached clinical trial stage, with the trial already being rolled out for the American candidate. There are 42 other candidates in the pre-clinical stage, with at least two candidates from Zydus Cadilla, the Indian pharma giant, and one from Serum Institute of India.

Estimates of corona impact through various mathematical models have hogged headlines. Neil Ferguson of the Imperial College, London, the lead author of the study whose projections forced the US and the UK to mount urgent action, batted for the UK’s lockdown, saying that could help bring down Corona deaths in the country to 20,000 from his earlier estimate of 500,000.

An Oxford study that claimed that nearly half of the UK’s population had already been infected was used by some to question Ferguson’s estimates; however, the consensus among a group of epidemiologists and experts, including Adam Kucharski of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is that there are certain sets of data that were not considered in the Oxford study.

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