As the deadly coronavirus spreads to each continent except Antarctica and therefore the death climbs above 3,000, scientists and doctors round the world are rushing to search out the simplest way to cure the disease, COVID-19, before it infects more people and poses an excellent bigger challenge to global health.
The progress made by the Chinese medical examiners in treating the disease offers hope: over half the patients in China where the outbreak first originated late last year have reportedly been discharged, reducing the remaining number of confirmed cases to but 35,000.
China has been touting the recovery rate and offering to supply medical help to other countries in need. secretary of state Wang Yi called his counterparts within the hard-hit countries of Italy and Iran at the weekend to supply assistance.
Most of these who have recovered only suffered mild symptoms of the disease, but the death rate among the elderly and people whose infection progresses to the critical stage remains high.
That remains a big challenge for medical workers treating COVID-19 patients, in step with a doctor performing at one among the leading hospitals in Wuhan who requested anonymity because the hospital management had banned its medics from reprehension the media.
The overall death rate among the infected is approximately 2.3 percent in China. However, in step with a study on early samples that was published within the Lancet, a UK-based medical journal last week the disease killed 61.5 percent of the critically ill.
“The normal procedure of treating pneumonia, like using ventilators, putting the patients on antiviral and antibacterial treatment and using steroids, has been proven relatively ineffective in treating patients reaching the last stage of the disease,” the doctor told the Al Jazeera news.
“The unsatisfactory supply of ECMO machines and effective drugs contributed to the high death rate,” the doctor continued, pertaining to the machine that gives cardiac and respiratory support to patients whose heart and lungs are failing.
Stopping disease progression
Such concerns are echoed by China’s National Health Commission.
Officials have stressed the importance of reducing the death rate among those that are more severely affected, usually folks that are older or who have existing health problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high vital sign.
“One of the most things we try to try to to at this moment is to scale back the amount of patients whose conditions reach the critically ill stage and improve the survival rate of these who have already reached that stage,” said the doctor. “To try this, we want to know which drugs would be helpful.”
There are, so far, 293 clinical trials on various existing drugs’ ability to fight the novel coronavirus, in step with the most recent data on Chinese clinical test Registry. Despite the same old logic of “more trials, better chance of success,” some experts have voiced concern over the sheer number of trials and the way that may actually impede the research process.
“Frankly, it is a bit ridiculous that such a lot of clinical trials are continuing, especially given the actual fact that the drugs utilized in some trials have practically no possibility of being effective in treating this disease,” a doctor at a number one research institute in Beijing who requested anonymity told Al Jazeera.
“Consequently, it leaves less room for trials that truly have an attempt at effectively treating the patients and indirectly slows down the method of finding an actual cure.”
Although there are currently no drugs that have allowed scientists to conclusively determine their efficacy against the disease, among all the 293 drugs or combination of medication being tested, one has stood out: Remdesivir, an antiviral agent produced by the US-based company Gilead Sciences and aimed toward fighting the filovirus.
“There is barely one drug at once that we predict may have real efficacy and that is Remdesivir,” the globe Health Organization or WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward said at a press briefing in Beijing after visiting the outbreak’s epicentre in Wuhan.
The drug made its debut within the fight against COVID-19 at the start of last month when a paper reporting that Remdesivir was utilized in the treatment of the primary discharged case within the US was published within the geographic area Journal of medication.
Two days later, the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Wuhan also started its clinical test and therefore the outcome is anticipated in April, which could offer doctors a more definite answer to the medicine’s efficacy.
Gilead also announced on February 26 the initiation of two Phase 3 clinical studies to judge the drug’s safety and efficacy, which might include 1,000 infected adults.
Apart from Remdesivir, doctors in China are putting some other contenders into clinical trials, including chloroquine phosphate, an anti-malaria drug, after finding “apparent efficacy” within the treatment of COVID-19. Earlier, anti-HIV drugs, like Lopinavir or Arbidor, were also included in China’s diagnosis and treatment plan, which has been updated sixfold since the outbreak began.
None of those drugs has yet been proved to be universally applicable to each patient battling the novel coronavirus.
This problem also extends to the plasma extracted from the donated blood of these who have recovered. Earlier this month, doctors confirmed the usage of the plasma had had some use in fighting the disease, but experts remain cautious.
“Any drug or supplement options only constitute a part of the complete treatment plan, that the idea of injecting the plasma to the patients yielding immediate results can only be seen in movies,” said Dr Zhang Wenhong, the leader of a medical team sent from Shanghai to Wuhan to assist tackle the outbreak. “The result’s limited, and therefore the usage of plasma will probably reduce the time needed to treat the disease from five to 10 days to a few to 5 days.”
Other are cautious on treatments, preferring to attend until the result of the trials is thought.
“It’s unclear how effective these drugs are and whether we want some new drugs to effectively curb the progression of the disease, so only clinical trials can tell,” said Dr David Ho, a prominent Columbia University professor who made significant contributions to the event of anti-HIV/AIDS drugs.
Apart from making use of existing drugs, the event of a vaccine has also been anesthetise the spotlight since a bunch of scientists in Shanghai first released the viral genome of the virus early in January.
Finding a vaccine
Despite a concerted effort from across the world, experts believe it’ll take a minimum of a year for any vaccine to be available to the overall public.
Moderna, a biotech company based within the US, is leading the worldwide race and released the primary batch of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus for human use on February 24. during a statement, the corporate said the vials of mRNA-1273, the official name for the vaccine, had been shipped to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to be utilized in the Phase 1 study within the US.
The clinical trials will first occur at a groundwork centre in Seattle among 45 volunteers and are expected to run 13 months with the most objective being to detect if the vaccine will trigger an system response and whether it’s safe.
After Phase 1, clinical trials to truly test the vaccine’s ability to resist the novel coronavirus will occur.
“The earliest efficacy trial will take a further six to eight months, so although it’s the fastest we’ve got gone from getting the sequence of the virus to an endeavor, it still wouldn’t be applicable to this epidemic unless this goes on for an additional year or year and a half,” Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID, said at a conference held by US President Donald Trump last week.
In addition to the long process of developing a vaccine from scratch, researchers also voiced concern over its fate: many suspect its development can be halted if the outbreak begins to taper off, as happened with SARS, the last large outbreak to originate in China.
“We never had an opportunity to check the SARS vaccines because there was no have to continue the event at that point,” Dr Zhong Nanshan, a number one pulmonary disease expert in China, said. “However, I do think it is vital to continue the trouble during this case due to the fast-spreading nature of the virus and therefore the subsequent unpredictability on how long this epidemic will last.”