As the number of Coronavirus cases and deaths continues to rise, researchers race toward some form of a cure. To save time during this crisis, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed parts of the standard test process to be neglected. Some drugs are already being tried out on people, having skipped the animal phase. While researchers explore new ideas and take every shortcut that can safely be justified, the world is left wondering: What treatments or vaccines may be coming soon?
Repurposed Antivirals: Hit or Miss
There was some hope that lopinavir and ritonavir, two HIV drugs, would be effective, but the results so far aren’t promising. Remdesivir was first used to combat Ebola outbreaks, but it has proven useful against other viruses. If a drug already approved for use on humans can be used to treat COVID-19, it should speed up the approval process. So far, the most promising antiviral drug seems to be chloroquine, which has long been used to fight malaria.
A New Way for Donated Blood to Save Lives?
Early reports out of China show that plasma from those who have recovered from Coronavirus can help others fight off the infection. Countries around the world, including the U.S., are now participating in a global program to test whether this can be a viable treatment.
Can a Vaccine Stop COVID-19?
The mRNA-1273 vaccine is in the human trial phase now. This option is unique in that it doesn’t contain any actual viral cells and therefore can’t spread the infection. Instead, it is made of messenger RNA from the virus.
Some researchers believe the bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) tuberculosis vaccine might offer some protection against COVID-19. In addition to proving effective against tuberculosis and leprosy, the BCG vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of other respiratory infections. One study out of Brazil showed that it reduced the risk of pneumonia mortality in children.
To be clear, this isn’t expected to be the ultimate cure or prevention – but an extra round of defense is nothing to be scoffed at.
Hurry Up and Wait …
When the scientific hurdles have all been cleared, application of the solution still won’t be immediate. Mass production takes money, and lots of it. Developers simply can’t afford to stockpile a potential treatment or vaccine that isn’t guaranteed to go to market.
Government agencies must approve the distribution of drugs. A nation that discovers a cure might give its own population first shot at the treatment. Researchers race toward a cure in a hurry up and wait situation.