In a week when the coronavirus closures and quarantines hit like falling dominoes – the lockdown in Italy, the empty workplaces and college campuses in the U.S., suspended sports seasons, canceled festivals – far less attention fell on the global scientific community’s drive to find treatments for the new virus.
But researchers are already suggesting strategies to help patients suffering from the virus, which is marked by fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. One treatment could be just weeks away.
With no vaccine expected anytime soon, treatments are crucial to saving the lives of thousands of the infected, especially high-risk patients – the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and those with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.
“I’m very hopeful and very positive. We’ll get through this,” said Robert Kruse, a doctor in the Department of Pathology at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. “I’ve been shocked this week at the measures that have been taken (to alter daily life). They were probably the correct ones, given that they have worked in other countries.”
‘Time is of the essence’
Kruse has been pursuing two treatment strategies, one of which has a long history and could be available within weeks rather than months. The quickest option is likely to be the use of antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients. As of Saturday, there were almost 72,000 such patients worldwide. The virus has infected about 150,000, killing more than 5,500.
The use of survivor antibodies, serum therapy, dates back to 1891 when it was used successfully to treat a child with diphtheria. Since then, serum from recovered patients has been used “to stem outbreaks of viral diseases such as poliomyelitis, measles, mumps and influenza,” according to a paper Friday in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. Read more