Instead of new drugs, the government stated they would be analyzing existing medications already used by HIV-infected patients, as well as drugs for other viral infections. The reason researchers believe that these drugs can be redirected for the new coronavirus is that it has genetic links to the SARS coronavirus, both made out of RNA. Other RNA pathogens include the ones that trigger Ebola, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.
Drugs Won’t Help Much, Though
RNA pathogens exist in various types and sizes, and those that infect humans can do so in numerous ways. However, many of the medications that are said to treat HIV and the hepatitis C virus can also treat flaws found in all kinds of pathogens as well.
The approved hepatitis C drug Ribavirin, for example, meddles with the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, an enzyme crucial for numerous viruses, including coronaviruses, to replicate inside a cell. HIV drugs such as Iopinavir occupy other enzymes that enable pathogens to take down specific proteins, which restricts their capacity to infect cells and replicate.
According to some scientists, the renowned antiviral drugs such as Iopinavir should be able to treat SARS-CoV-2, as the novel coronavirus strain has been named recently. There is apparently some inconclusive evidence that they do as some of these medications have been tested out for SARS and MERS.
These studies have only been conducted in the lab or on animals, which means that their outcomes won’t necessarily work on people. While SARS and MERS are somehow linked to the new coronavirus, that doesn’t assure, at all, that these drugs will function. However, considering the massive size of the epidemic, as more than 72,000 people have been infected worldwide, and almost 2,000 deaths since December 2019, governments are running for any potential cure options.
It is Better to Prevent the Contamination
Last month, the Chinese government announced a trial of 41 patients in Wuhan that would utilize a mix therapy of Iopinavir and another HIV medication, Ritonavir. In February, the Chinese authorities also began administrating an experimental drug called Remdesivir, that has been tested out for HIV and Ebola.
Remdesivir has already been applied during the epidemic, with apparently impressive results. Last month, the first documented U.S. case with the pathogen was treated with Remdesivir, after a week of worsening symptoms that had triggered acute pneumonia. Within a day of receiving the medication via an IV, the patient started to get better, and he was eventually released from the hospital.
However, one case doesn’t make the drug certain. And even if Remdesivir or other medication does end up being efficient against COVID-19, they will only be a small element in stopping this epidemic from getting worse.
The majority of cases of the novel coronavirus are not severe, and the drugs won’t make a huge difference. When it comes to preventing a pandemic, it is more crucial to keep people from getting contaminated with the pathogen at all, instead of finding drugs that treat them after they already do.