We’re living through a scary time. No matter where you live, you’re probably in lock down, and potentially, you’ve had a friend or relative who has been diagnosed. You may be wondering, “Is there a cure for it?”
I’m talking about the coronavirus.
Even with social distancing, everyone wants to know, is there a cure and what is the treatment?
Let’s look at the current facts about the coronavirus.
What Is the Coronavirus?
There is a lot of information about this new type of coronavirus, which is called COVID-19.
Some of it is accurate, but not all of it is. The novel coronavirus first appeared in China in December 2019.
Since then, it has made a rapid race infecting people on all continents except Antarctica.
On March 30th, 2020, the World Health Organization says there are 638,130 cases of coronavirus globally. They also show over 30,000 deaths.
However, Johns Hopkins University is maintaining a resource that is reporting close to 2 million cases (1,970,879 to be exact) and 125,678 deaths at the time of this writing.
What Causes the Coronavirus?
The coronavirus gets passed from human to human.
When you are near someone else who has the virus and they cough or sneeze without covering their nose and mouth with a tissue, the virus can travel to you. The coronavirus can fly in the air about a distance of three feet.
So, what we currently know is the coronavirus is spread:
- Between people who are within six feet of each other
- Through sneezes or coughs that cause respiratory droplets
What Are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?
If someone with the virus infects you, symptoms may start to show after two days and up to fourteen days later.
This estimate is based on the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
Is There a Cure for Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, for the time being, coronavirus doesn’t have a cure.
Doctors are working around the clock testing treatments and possible preventative drugs. At best, we can hope for a vaccine early in 2021, but the process is long and has many steps.
When it comes to the flu, they are all very similar to each other, but COVID-19 is new. In a lot of ways, doctors have just begun to understand what treatment works. For the same reasons, no one is immune to it right now.
This week, the FDA issued limited emergency use of two Malaria treatment drugs to treat coronavirus. These don’t cure it, but some doctors found they are helping to prevent infection. Still, many feel with so little testing, it might be risky.
With so many people affected, doctors are willing to try anything to stem the spread of the disease.
Moreover, it’s typically not the virus that kills people, but the respiratory and immune complications that it creates, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is responsible for an estimated 90% of the deaths.
Thankfully, stem cells—most notably a type called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)—are showing enormous promise for treating ARDS and other complications of the coronavirus.
What Treatments Are Available?
Depending on your symptoms, there are a few restorative treatments available that your doctor may prescribe or suggest:
- To reduce the possibility of dehydration, take fluids
- Fever-reducing medication
- In severe cases, supplemental oxygen
There is no vaccine yet, though companies around the world are working around the clock to develop one. It will take over a year to get from development and testing to approval—and the clock is ticking.
What’s not working is antibiotics, since the coronavirus is a viral infection and not caused by bacteria.
COVID-19 Testing Kits: The Answers Are in the Data
Since the virus emerged, testing and the testing kits have been a point of acrimony.
The fact is that without testing on a broad level, it is difficult to precisely track the path of the virus and infections.
There are important metrics that are difficult to pin down as well—for example, infectiousness and mortality rates. A key to better managing this is the development of new, less expensive testing kits.
As of today, 41 laboratory COVID-19 diagnostic tests have been authorized by regulators to identify the virus. Of those, 20 have received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. FDA.
In late March, the FDA gave EUA a test from Abbott Laboratories that can provide results in 13 minutes or less. This makes it one of the fastest to date! It is being scaled to deliver 50,000 tests per day to the U.S. healthcare system.
In Europe, a CE Mark is required to market diagnostic kits, a certification that indicates a product “conforms with the health, safety, and environmental protection standards” for the region. Thus far, 17 kits have been approved for use in Europe.
To date, the U.S. FDA has not yet authorized any at-home testing kits for COVID-19.
While at-home tests aren’t available, home-based testing is ready to be deployed.
The company Ready Responders is rolling out its home-based COVID-19 testing service that will involve a telephone call, a visit from a healthcare provider, and if appropriate, testing with an FDA-approved diagnostic kit.
What Is Being Done Now?
Vaccine research, along with treatment investigations, is being done around the world for the coronavirus.
There’s some evidence that some medications have the potential to assist with preventing the illness or treating symptoms.
Rapid progress on a vaccine is being made due to several reasons. One of the big ones is China’s work on the genetic sequencing of Sars-CoV-2. This information will be shared with research groups everywhere.
Another key factor is that coronaviruses were already a target for medical researchers since both SARS and MERS were originated by coronaviruses. Those vaccines were shelved after the outbreaks were contained. This knowledge can now be applied to overcoming the novel coronavirus.
One of the more encouraging developments comes from Moderna Therapeutics and is a vaccine being called mRNA-1273.
For expediency’s sake, they have bypassed animal testing and have gone directly to human testing. If it all goes well, they hope to have an early version available in a few months that will go to at-risk groups like healthcare workers first.
Exciting progress is also being made by Sanofi and Regeneron, who launched a Phase 2/3 trial in New York evaluating the IL-6 targeted Kevzara.
Plus, Inovio Pharmaceuticals is advancing its vaccine into human trials within the U.S. and intends to produce one million doses of it by the end of the year.
In total, there are at least 20 vaccines being developed that are further away in stages of development. The work being done has given hope that a vaccine can be developed within an efficient timeline.
Treatments that are actively being pursued are generally among these two categories:
- Treatment of respiratory symptoms, with a focus on the inflammation in severe cases
- Antiviral growth, which is basically how to stop the virus from spreading inside the body
We can take hope from the fact that the majority of people only experience mild symptoms, even though the more severe cases can end in death.
There are a broad range of companies in the race to develop treatments for the coronavirus. From pharma and healthcare to universities, everyone is in the race. One amazing entry is Fujifilm.
It was recently announced that their flu drug Avigan could be a possible option in helping coronavirus patients recover. The Japanese government has enough supplies of the drug to treat two million people. So, potentially great news.
The best advice is to stay informed by visiting CDC.gov and WHO.int.
Their updates will let you know when the question, “Is there a cure for the coronavirus?” gets answered. Hopefully, that will be soon.