Behind the scenes part two: Where are we at with treatments for coronavirus SARS-CoV-2?


Dr Alexandra Bernhardi

Health Columnist

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Dr Alexandra Bernhardi gives some insight into the medical world about what treatments are being worked on for coronavirus. Image: Supplied.

While the global society is getting used to the daily media coverage of COVID-19 case numbers, lots of scientists all over the world are working hard to explore possible treatments.

The emphasis must be on “possible” treatments - as to date no confirmed and approved treatment is available.

- Behind the scenes part one: testing for coronavirus

Let’s have a look at some of the different angles:

  1. Given SARS-CoV-2 is a virus - it makes sense to look for an antiviral treatment. Antiviral medications work by trying to stop a virus from growing. Currently at least 10 trials are underway - so far with mixed results.

  2. Antimalarial medication has attracted a lot of attention, especially in the USA. While early reports were able to report beneficial outcomes for some patients, formal large scale randomised trials need to be conducted to look at safety and at what kind of patients might benefit. Anecdotal success stories are not enough to determine if such a treatment can be used for a wider population.

  3. Another group of medication is the group of immunosuppressants - especially as the over stimulation of a person’s immune response caused by SARS-CoV-2 seems to contribute to a higher risk of dying. These drugs are often used in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis.

  4. Stem-cell-therapy is another avenue scientists are looking at, but this trial is still in a very early phase.

  5. Then there are at least a dozen trials exploring the use of plasma from recovered patients, to provide neutralising antibodies . However, when this approach was trialled in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak, a study with 84 Ebola patients found no improvement in survival.

So, while it is comforting to know that scientists are searching for treatments, the reality is that we are still very far away from being able to treat COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms other than through supportive therapies such as artificial ventilation.

But, and this is a big and happy but, why don’t we turn to the things we already know?

We do know for example that in over 80% of people with coronavirus, our very own inbuilt immune system works just perfectly to fight the virus.

80% is quite a big success rate - and in my opinion, we should do everything we can to help our immune system to do its job.

This also means the ball is in our hands. Instead of sitting it out & waiting for a cure, let’s get started and become serious about improving our lifestyle! Ditch the cigarettes, eat whole food and get active - it is never too late to start with your better life.

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