Coronavirus Pandemic - Testing Times

The Hindu Business Line|March 21, 2020

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Coronavirus Pandemic - Testing Times
Academic institutes and pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop strategies to combat the novel coronavirus

It’s not all bad news on the novel coronavirus front, even though, according to some estimates, five per cent of all those infected will need intensive care support. If the spike in infections occurs too quickly, it could overwhelm healthcare systems. And that is why, while a vaccine is at least a year away, developing a treatment protocol, which can be a mix of medications and medical procedures, to mitigate the devastating respiratory illness remains a priority.

Drawing upon years of basic and clinical research, academic institutes and pharmaceutical companies are racing towards developing multiple strategies to combat SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), which causes Covid-19. These range from diagnostics and existing and novel antivirals to vaccines. The development of new drugs is a lengthy process, which is why most of the current clinical trials have focused on re-purposing or finding new uses for existing drugs or therapeutic approaches that are known to be safe. What remains to be learnt is if these drugs are effective for the treatment of the SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The trials have drawn upon prior work on previously encountered species-hopping (zoonotic) coronaviruses, closely related to SARSCoV-2, that have caused fatal respiratory disorders. These were SARS-CoV-1, which caused the outbreak in 2002, and the Middle eastern respiratory syndrome CoV (MERS-CoV) of 2012, jumping to humans from bats and camels, respectively, and known to infect other species such as civets. All three are RNA viruses, of a class called beta-coronaviruses.

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March 21, 2020