- The World Health Organization (WHO) says there are some treatments that can limit the severity of new coronavirus cases and that it is targeting four or five of them.
- But the WHO also made it clear that none of these COVID-19 therapies can kill the coronavirus or prevent infections.
- The organization also advised caution with respect to vaccines, saying that coronaviruses are "very complicated viruses,quot; and that developing an effective vaccine could be difficult.
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We have learned of several promising therapies for the new coronavirus in recent weeks, including remdesivir, which will become a standard treatment for COVID-19. But the type of medication that can kill the coronavirus is not yet here, so these promising medications can only reduce the severity of the disease or perhaps prevent life-threatening complications. The WHO confirmed this this week and said it is studying several of the most promising drugs.
"We have some treatments that appear to be in very early studies that limit the severity or duration of the disease, but we have nothing that can kill or stop the virus," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said during a press conference. "We have potentially positive data, but we need to see more data to be 100% sure we can say this treatment on that one."
As long as therapies are effective in reducing complications and death rates, and in shortening recovery time, they do not have to kill the virus or prevent it from spreading. In fact, Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this week that there is virtually no chance that we can eradicate the new coronavirus.
The WHO official did not mention any of the promising drugs referenced in the statement, saying more research is needed and planned. The organization announced a mass trial nearly two months ago, but the conclusions of that "Solidarity,quot; study have not been published. The trial focused on four different therapies, including remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine / chloroquine, ritonavir-lopinavir (Kaletra), and ritonavir-lopinavir / interferon beta.
The United States has already revealed that remdesivir can reduce recovery times from 15 days to 11 days on average, noting that the drug cannot reduce death rates and may need to be combined with additional medications. Other studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine does not have the desired effect, and cardiac complications can be life-threatening for patients.
Kaletra was shown to be effective when combined with two other medications, including an antiviral (ribavirin) and a multiple sclerosis treatment (interferon beta). A Hong Kong study showed that the combination of three drugs reduced recovery time to seven days, compared to 12 days for the control group that was only in Kaletra.
In other words, while the WHO is not ready to confirm the names of promising cures for the coronavirus it is currently studying, it appears that at least two variations of the four initial drug combinations included in the Solidaridad study have already been shown to be effective in COVID -19 treatment.
A growing number of reports have also revealed that various pharmaceutical companies are developing artificial antibodies that could function as a plasma transfusion from a patient recovered from COVID-19. Anecdotal evidence says that plasma works and can help with severe cases of COVID-19. Separately, a growing number of studies have indicated that the new coronavirus causes blood clots, and blood thinners may reduce the risk of complications. It is not clear if any of these drugs are also on the list that the WHO mentioned.
Harris also addressed vaccines, noting that coronaviruses in general are "very difficult viruses,quot; that are "difficult to produce vaccines," according to Reuters.
As of mid-March, there were more than 115 candidate vaccines in the pipeline, with several promising options already in the phase 1 or phase 2 trials. The WHO previously said a vaccine could be ready in at least 12 months. Fauci noted a few weeks ago that a vaccine could be available in early 2021 if all goes well.