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Drug Development and Treatments for COVID-19

The UK government has announced the commencement of human trials of a possible novel coronavirus vaccine, that has been developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. On the other hand, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE received approval from Germany to conduct clinical trials of a potential vaccine for COVID-19. As of now, these are the front runners in the global race of developing a treatment for the pandemic.

The first case of novel coronavirus disease was reported in December 2019, in the Wuhan province of China. Since then, it has rapidly spread across geographies with 2,732,702 active cases at present. The disease has taken 191,150 lives and 750,864 people have recovered to date.

The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a new strain of virus, known as the SARS-CoV-2. It is a positive-sense, enveloped, single-strand RNA betacoronavirus from the Coronaviridae family.  

Since the virus outbreak first made news, international healthcare and research organizations have been pooling all their resources to create a vaccine to prevent the disease.

While many have claimed to have come up with a possible vaccine, they are still undergoing clinical trials, and months away from mass production and distribution.

Here’s an updated list of the latest vaccine and drug discoveries COVID-19 treatment:

  • ChAdOx1 Vaccine

The researcher’s University of Oxford has come up with a super-fast vaccine for novel coronavirus treatment, following which the UK government has announced the commencement of clinical trials. The lead researcher of ChAdOx1 also known as the recombinant viral vector vaccine, Prof. Sarah Gilbert, has claimed that the vaccine is effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Working together with MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency), the researchers are accelerating the trials, so that mass distribution can be made possible at the earliest. If everything goes well, then the first batch of a million doses will be available by September. The UK government has announced a grant of 20 million pounds to the ChAdOx1 research team for the trials.
Source: Oxford

  • Pfizer Inc. & BioNTech SE

Germany has given approval to Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for the commencement of clinical trials on their proposed vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has been allowed to conduct trials on 200 healthy volunteers between the age of 18 to 55 years initially. The second stage of the trials will involve high-risk candidates. Both the companies are trying to get trial approval from the FDA (USA) as well. However, it will take months for the clinical trials to come through and more time for mass production and distribution.
Source: Bloomberg

  • Blood Plasma Therapy

Post-approval from the FDA, the blood plasma therapy initiated by Johns Hopkins University, is being tested in various hospitals across America. As per reports, the plasma treatment is being extensively tested in New York, and more than 20 serious COVID-19 patients have already received the therapy. Medical institutes and hospitals in other corona affected nations, are also working on plasma therapy and have initiated trails of their own.

The blood plasma therapy treatment uses convalescent plasma from the recovered patients to treat all those who are seriously ill due to the disease. It can reportedly be also used to boost immunity in an individual who has a high chance of contracting the disease.

The FDA has, however, updated its guidelines regarding the treatment reminding medical professionals, that more clinical trials need to be conducted, before routine administering convalescent plasma to the patients.
Source: HUB

  • Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine 

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration, USA) has approved the emergency use of Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine to treat those affected by the COVID-19 disease. On March 19th, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, declared that Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine, which is used for the treatment of arthritis and malaria has been approved by the FDA for corona treatment. As per reports, Chloroquine was also used to treat COVID patients in France and China, the response of which was positive. The drug is being tested in multiple clinical trials across healthcare and academic institutions and government agencies. 
Source: NCBI

  • Azithromycin

Antibiotics such as azithromycin have reportedly proven to work efficiently on COVID patients when used along with Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine for eliminating the virus. Study shows that hydroxychloroquine helps in load reduction of the virus, the effect of which is better when combined with azithromycin.
Source: NCBI

  • Favilavir

Commonly used to treat flu, the anti-viral drug Favilavir was the first drug to get approval for novel coronavirus treatment in China. After being found effective during clinical studies on 70 patients, the National Medical Products Administration of China approved the drug. It has been reported, that the drug showed minimal side effects in the patients during the trails. 
Source: The Science Times

  • Remdesivir

An experimental and broad-spectrum antiviral drug, Remdesivir was created to treat Ebola. However, in a recent study, it has been found that it is equally effective in countering the SARS-CoV-2 virus strand in isolated cells. The drug is yet to get approval as clinical trials are ongoing in China. However, one clinical trial involving the remdesivir drug was recently approved by the FDA, in the US as per reports.
Source: Pubmed, Nature

  • Lopinavir and Ritonavir

Marketed under the name Kaletra, lopinavir and ritonavir are used to treat HIV patients. The theory that the drugs are effective for treating novel coronavirus, originated in South Korea. A 54-year-old man was given a combination of both the drugs, which according to reports displayed significant improvement in the patient. The World Health Organization has also voted in favor of Kaletrabeing administered with other drugs. 
Source: Pubmed

  • APN10

Austria based Apeiron Biologics’ produced drug APN10 is already been tested in China on a clinical trial comprising of 24 patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms. The company was recently cleared to commence its independent phase 2 trials in Austria, Denmark, and Germany. The drug was first created in the early 2000s, to counter the ACE2 protein in SARS infections. In a recent study it was found that just like SARS, COVID-19 also uses the ACE2 protein to attack the human cells, making it one of the probable treatments for the pandemic. According to reports, Apeiron Biologics has received funding from the Austrian government to conduct the trials. 
Source: Pharmaphorum

  • Ivermectin

The FDA approved antiparasitic drug Ivermectin, has been pegged as one of the possible treatments for COVID-19 by researchers at Monash University and the Doherty Institute. As per their observation in a lab study, the drug can prevent the SARS-CoV-2 from replicating within 48 hours. However, it is still in the early stages of research and yet to go for clinical trials. If proven to be a probable treatment, the researchers will have to figure out the delivery method and the right dose for it to work on COVID-19 patients.

Ivermectin was first isolated in the 1970s from Streptomyces avermitilis bacteria. The drug is commonly used to treat parasites in humans, pets, and livestock. In cream and lotion form it is used to treat head lice and in oral doses for roundworm infection, scabies, and rosacea.
Source: Monash University, ScienceDirect

  • Blood Plasma Therapy

The FDA has approved Johns Hopkins University to test blood plasma therapy to treat the novel coronavirus affected. The treatment uses convalescent plasma from the recovered patients to treat all those who are seriously ill due to the disease. The therapy can reportedly be used to boost immunity in an individual who has a high chance of contracting the disease. 
Source: Johns Hopkins University

As of yet, there are no proven drugs or vaccines for treating those affected by the COVID-19 disease. Discovery of drugs and vaccines is a work in progress with clinical trials happening all around the world. As the story develops, we will keep you updated on the latest drug and vaccination trials and studies in the coming days.

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