Co-authored by Jonah Liss and Daniella Ghafari
Since the commencement of the ongoing “Great Lockdown,” negative implications have surfaced in nearly every regard. With the well being of political, social, educational, religious, and economic systems at jeopardy, the premature termination of quarantine is increasingly tempting. In spite of your perceived stance on the lockdown dilemma, remaining diligent in our social distancing efforts seems to be imperative as to not overwhelm our health care systems and to avoid a worse, second wave. Social distancing is, however, not the only way to combat COVID-19. While remedies or even a cure for the novel coronavirus may not be as simple as injecting disinfectants, medical researchers around the world have achieved many promising breakthroughs.
The FDA recently granted American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences emergency authorization to use its investigational antiviral drug Remdesivir for hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 cases. Remdesivir showed promising results after demonstrating activity in animal models that had MERS and SARS, which have similar structures to the novel coronavirus. Remdesivir has been authorized for usage in both adults and children, but specifically for confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses where patients have severely low blood oxygen levels or require ventilator support. Information pertaining to safety and effectiveness are currently limited, however, considering the shortened recovery time in some patients throughout clinical trials, Gilead's 50,000 vials ready to ship is certainly an assuring sign.
The FDA announced in a press release, that "given there are no adequate, approved, or available alternative treatments, the known and potential benefits… [of Remdesivir] currently outweigh the known and potential risks of the drug's use." The FDA's expedited authorization will increase access to Remdesivir for doctors considerably, in contrast to earlier where usage was limited to clinical trials. While Remdesivir may not be a cure to COVID-19, it is certainly a step in the right direction and appears to be a viable remedy for extreme cases. As such, Remdesivir has the potential to help many patients, all while alleviating hospital strains existing from an influx of cases and a lack of resources.
2. Hydroxychloroquine + zPak
The novel coronavirus is a single-stranded RNA virus, that works by injecting its genetic material into vulnerable cells, and using its resources to produce the proteins that COVID-19 needs to spread through your body. Essentially, the coronavirus is not trying to kill you, it's trying to use your body as a host and then infect others so it can keep living. Hydroxychloroquine is not a new drug; it has been around for a while to help treat malaria as well as autoimmune diseases that cause painful inflammation like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Anytime a foreign substance, or an antigen, enters someone's body, white blood cells trigger a reaction from your immune system, which can be seen physically as a fever, sneezing, and coughing among other reactions in order to expel the virus. We know that for COVID-19 cases, there is an average incubation period of two days to two weeks, meaning that your immune system takes that long to react and show symptoms. Although not enough research has been completed yet, Yale doctors are researching Hydroxychloroquine since it has been suspected to increase the recovery time of COVID-19 patients, by increasing the speed of one's immune system.
A zPak, or azithromycin, has been used with hydroxychloroquine to combat the virus. Azithromycin is known to treat many respiratory tract infections, as well as STDs and urinary tract infections because it can combat inflammation. Azithromycin is actually an antibiotic, and using it alone may not be effective in combating the virus, though it was found effective in treating the Zika and Ebola viruses. We know the COVID-19 affects a patient's respiratory tract, so in junction with hydroxychloroquine, some studies have found that patients recover much faster than they would on no medication alone.