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25 Apr, 2020 22:04

Covid-19 vaccine may be far away, but these alternate treatments are next best thing — study

Covid-19 vaccine may be far away, but these alternate treatments are next best thing — study

While numerous clinical trials are currently fighting for a vaccine to the coronavirus, one new study suggests promising treatments that can be used in the meantime to battle the spread.

The study, titled ‘The Current and Future State of Vaccines, Antivirals and Gene Therapies Against Emerging Coronaviruses’ and published by Frontiers in Biology, suggests selected antivirals and gene therapy for treatments to the virus that will potentially present faster results than any vaccine, which could take months to over a year to fully develop and make available.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have taken an aim at not only treating Covid-19, but also related strains and potential future ones that could appear.

"To help focus the global search for a treatment, we here aim to provide a comprehensive resource of possible lines of attack against SARS-Cov-2 and related coronaviruses, including the results from all preclinical and clinical trials so far on vaccines against SARS and MERS,” Dr. Ralph Baric, professor in the Department of Epidemiology and in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UNC Chapel Hill, says.

The most effective treatment recommended by the study, besides vaccines, are antivirals like nucleoside analogs, which mirror the virus's genetic material in order to get incorporated into it and stall its progress. Coronaviruses reportedly contain a “proofreading” enzyme that can reject such antivirals, but there are exceptions to the rule.

Other strategies include blood plasma from patients who have recovered from the virus and monoclonal antibodies, which are made through biotechnology to be clones of a parent cell. However, the latter of those also presents the obstacle of being a long process.

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The quickest and simplest alternative to a vaccine, according to the researchers, is gene therapy. Short term immunity can be given to patients by delivering targeted antibodies, immunoadhesins, antiviral peptides, and immunomodulators into their upper airways. 

While this act of “passive immunization” does not provide complete immunity from the virus, author Dr. Long Pring Victor Tse believes a targeted “single dose” of these antivirals could give protection to patients within a week and last up to a year. 

There is still much debate about the timeframe of a potential vaccine to Covid-19, and even whether one can be developed since so little is still known about the virus. Chinese scientists have even warned that the virus’ ability to mutate has been underestimated, which presents a major obstacle to a potential vaccine. 

Also on rt.com Covid-19 mutations underestimated, Chinese scientists warn, as DEADLIEST strains grip Europe and US

The UK's Chief Medical Officer, Christopher Whitty, told a Parliamentary committee on Friday that there is troublesome evidence suggesting a vaccine may be further away than anticipated.

"The first question we do not know is 'do you get natural immunity to this disease if you have had it, for a prolonged period of time?'" he said. "Now if we don't then it doesn't make a vaccine impossible but it makes it much less likely and we simply don't know yet.”

The World Health Organization meanwhile announced on Friday that world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have committed to an $8 billion effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, as well develop a vaccine.

Within the US, a timeframe of 12-18 months has been floated by experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, who sits on the White House coronavirus task force.

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