While many people are pinning their hopes on the COVID-19 vaccine, there is another option: preventive treatment,media Outlet The Verge reported. At a Senate hearing this week, Anthony Fauci, America’s top cdcmy, noted that vaccines could be months or years — not the only way to protect people from life-threatening viruses. The treatments could protect people from infection for weeks or months, said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. While most ongoing research has focused on finding treatments for people who are already sick, some researchers are looking for ways to stop high-risk people from getting sick from the start.
This is a proven strategy: for decades, preventive drugs have been used to help people protect themselves from malaria. More recently, they have been a breakthrough in the fight against AIDS. There is no effective vaccine against AIDS, but people can take a drug every day, through sexual activity to develop the risk of AIDS can be reduced by 99%. The drug is a pre-exposure prophylaxis drug, or PrEP, a drug used to prevent people who have not been exposed to disease.
“We have a very powerful tool that, personally, can protect me from HIV,” said James Krellenstein, co-founder of the PrEP4All collaboration and organizer of the COVID-19 working group in New York.
Krellenstein released a report this week outlining ongoing clinical trials to find drugs that can prevent COVID-19. When the virus replicates and spreads in the body, it makes people sick, and most antiviral drugs are designed to stop the virus from copying. Caleb Skipper, a postdoctoral researcher on infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota, told The Verge that taking the drug early on when only a small amount of the virus’s particles were in the body was more effective than waiting until the virus was everywhere.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota are currently conducting a clinical trial to see if hydroxychloroquine can stop the new coronavirus from replicating in a test tube. The drug has long been controversial and has not been effective in treating patients who are already hospitalized.
Krellenstein found that most clinical trials are now testing preventive drugs such as oxychloroquine. He believes that research into preventive drugs needs to spread the net widerly, but also look at other drug candidates. “Vaccines are an art, like a science, with a lot of hits and mistakes. It would be impressive if we could find a molecular compound that could really inhibit COVID-19. He said.
Some researchers are looking beyond hydroxychloroquine. At Johns Hopkins University, researchers are testing the blood of recovering plasma therapy, a coVID-19 survivor rich in antibodies, to see if it can protect it. An experiment to test how protective it is for people exposed to the new coronavirus will begin recruiting participants next week.
“You can imagine everyone in a meatpacking plant getting this. You can imagine that everyone in the White House has access to this, and some high-risk groups,” said David Sullivan, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins University Malaria Institute who was involved in the study. “For those who are critical, it’s a way to get my immunity right away. “
The test will test whether the plasma can provide protection and, if so, how long it may last. “The plasma is in a single dose — one injection can be protected for a month or six weeks,” Sullivan said. “We believe that this is one of the basic steps to get us back into a functioning society. But we have to prove that it works. “
He said that if plasma helps prevent COVID-19, this could be a sign that antibody therapy may also be a useful protection. Pharmaceutical companies are trying to find the most effective antibodies to block new coronaviruses. They will then be able to produce a cocktail of virus-blocking substances that are more targeted than plasma, a general mixture of all antibodies produced by the patient’s body. “Recovery plasma is the first step toward other products,” Sullivan said.
Plasma and antibodies usually require intravenous fluids, so it is challenging to provide them to people at risk of contracting COVID-19 — although it may only take one time to provide a degree of protection. Hydroxychloroquine is a pill, so it’s easier for people to take, but it may need to be taken daily. These restrictions, Sullivan argues, are not insurmountable. He said identifying drugs that protect people from new coronavirus infections is a key step in controlling the pandemic.
“Treating patients requires a concerted effort. That’s what has to be done,” Sullivan said. But the best way to help people is to keep them from getting sick in the first place. It can also help them get out of the house more safely. “If I had a treatment that would shorten the length of my stay, and if that meant I might have to go to the hospital, I’d still be worried about going out,” he said.
Sullivan believes treatment is important, but they can help put out the flames that have been ignited. “Preventive therapy is like splashing water on a box of matches, ” he said. “Wet matches are not going to be lit in the first place. “