With 597,458 people testing positive for the novel coronavirus and the death toll at 27,370, major countries in the world are racing for its cure. The outbreak of COVID-19, and its fast spread to many countries, endangering thousands of lives has brought attention of national governments, pharmaceutical companies and research organizations towards the development of novel coronavirus vaccines.
The President of the United States, Donald Trump, announced on 19 March that chloroquine (hydroxychloroquine/Plaquenil), a drug used to treat malaria and arthritis, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be tested as a treatment for COVID-19.
(However, before we proceed ahead we would also like to remind people not to self-medicate using any compounds/medicines. A couple in Arizona, US took chloroquine phosphate, an additive commonly used in aquariums to clean fish tanks, because they were afraid of getting sick – as a result the husband died and the wife was hospitalised. Health officials as far as Nigeria had to issue a warning about chloroquine after three people overdosed on the drug after Trump announced it as a potential treatment.)
Meanwhile, Chloroquine is being tested in various clinical trials conducted by government agencies and academic institutions. On the other hand, Favilavir, an anti-viral drug, has been approved by National Medical Products Administration of China for the use of treatment for coronavirus.
According to the clinical trials being conducted in Shenzhen, Guangdong province of China, the drug has reportedly shown efficacy in treating the disease with minimal side effects in a clinical trial involving 70 patients.
The coronavirus cases in U.S. has surged to 104,256 with a death toll of 1,704. Therefore, New York City hospitals are preparing to start drawing blood from COVID-19 survivors, with hope that antibodies their bodies made to fight the disease can be an antidote for the disease.
The hospitals will isolate the plasma from recovered patients and, in a process, called “convalescent plasma therapy”, their antibodies will be transferred to others, either to protect them against getting infected or to boost the immune systems of those who are already sick.
Even though this experiment hasn’t been proven to work against the coronavirus, preliminary research from China suggests that it has helped a small group of patients recover. The convalescent plasma therapy has also seen some success in past infectious outbreaks such as SARS and Ebola.
With more than 54,000 cases, the FDA on Tuesday, March 24 opened up access for doctors to use the therapy on a case-by-case basis to treat patients in severe or life-threatening condition.
Meanwhile, until a cure/vaccine is realised, we continue to urge the public to practice safe hygiene and maintain social distance.