Today, planet Earth has nearly 1.4 million COVID-19 infected human cases, when it actually should be celebrating the world health day. Observing from this position, where such sharp rise in the number of cases within less than three months duration, it seems it might never go away. It looks, we are in the verge of another contagion like the flu, cholera, and plague pandemic which had killed millions of human life.
Just after the trauma from the devastating earthquake, Nepalese people is now sharing stress of COVID-19 pandemic with rest of the world. The serenity of being less affected than other countries is being slowly surpassed by the anxiety of its possible explosion inside the country. The count of rise in death number every moments is beating the hearts louder. Many are going through detrimental mental agony.
Yes, Mother Nature is unsurmountable. But still we are living in the era, when many times, impossible is redefined by the ability and excellence of human scientists. And this has always preserved our ray of faith in the dark of the darkest times.
With the evolving concern about the disease, people are having different types of the curiosities as well. They are confused with different types of news headlines, and sometime misinterpreting them can become hazardous too. There is debate on the extent of vulnerability, whether caused by viral dose or genetic makeup of the individuals. Some researchers believe that amount of virus that infects is more crucial for the outcomes like in the case of some other forms of influenza. Whereas some other researchers believe that the genetic makeup is major determinant.
There are some articles which has suggested that the spread of transmission is boosted in cold and dry environment. But there are abundant evidence of its transmission in all spaces including hot and humid areas, and relying on weather change to slow the transmission will be insufficient. So, we might require some more time to find the actual answer of these dilemmas than to come into any conclusions.
Most important part for us will be to limit all the possible exposures. Any suspected case to remain under the strict isolation. And this should be done unbiasedly in any area, at any climatic conditions with acceptable and possible protective measures. It’s now revealed fact that social distancing is playing the vital role in preventing the multiplication of possible infections. The major benefits of this deed is isolating above half of those cases who are carrying the virus but remaining symptomless.
There are many progresses happening to overcome this disease. Rather than to panic around, we should safeguard ourselves and community maintaining self-discipline till the correct times comes. Here are the few examples that possibly the right time is coming close. To bring the light of hopes in the darkness of presumed cataclysm, mega studies of some potential treatment are under trial.
The two antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and, two anti-retroviral drugs ritonavir and lopinavir are considered to be accessed by WHO. The WHO team is also considering the combination of those retroviral with interferon beta to increase the chance of therapeutic benefit.
The drug previously developed and proved ineffective for Ebola “Remdesivir” is also taken for surveillance for the treatment of this purpose. Recommendation of some blood thinning agents like tissue plasminogen activator has reduced the need of intensive care and ventilators in many instances. Thus increasing the survival rate and decreasing the requirement of resources. Beside this different drugs are being tried as immune boosters and immune stimulants to fight this disease.
These are only few examples of the massive trials of many drugs going around the world. And good part of all these research and trials of drugs and treatment is, they are already available in the market and need not go through the tedious long path of new drug manufacturing process.
Many research centers working on vaccines are claiming to introduce the vaccines for COVID-19 by another 6 to 8 months’ time. Once vaccines are proven effective modern world has the capacity to be able to produce the required amount by the duration of another some weeks only. Passive antibody therapy ‘where blood from the patient recovered from the virus is inserted to the recipient patient’ is already deployed in some centers.
Now a days BCG vaccination which is mandatory in our country to be taken within the first week of birth is becoming a hot topic. BCG vaccination was previously seen to decrease some respiratory infections unrelated to tuberculosis. Now different retrospective data is also suggestive to decrease the severity and hospital stay of the COVID-19 patient who have previously taken BCG vaccination at birth. And different international institute have now started the trial to investigate the efficacy of this vaccine against the COVID-19.
The safety of the health workers who are the first line defenders of this war, has always been a major concern. Some favorable results are reported regarding this too. Implementing the best practice for the infection control, no hospital acquired infections occurred to any health workers in Hong Kong. As a result of active response and prompt reaction to this outbreak, the manufacturing and availability of the personal protective equipment has upsurge.
Many research based on the possibility of re-infection of this disease is also encouraging. Once the infection has activated the immune system of the host, it has shown to protect against the future reinfections which is of course the vital implications for designing the vaccine as well. Though more definite reliable reports needs to be awaited.
The progress in the research and trials for the treatment of COVID-19 is enough to shape our hopes that each day we are stepping closer for the victory.
This article is authored by ✍️ Dr. Ashish Kumar Bhattarai, Clinical Pharmacologist, Kathmandu Medical College and Hospital.