Treatment & Prevention: COVID-19 Research
A global pandemic necessitates new studies and scientific innovation. Locally, research is underway to find ways to more effectively treat and stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
As part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, Saint Louis University has been looking into the effectiveness of remdesivir for treating COVID-19. The antiviral drug blocks the RNA replication of a virus. “A virus works by replicating itself,” explains Dr. Sarah George, the study’s lead researcher and an associate professor of infectious disease. “If you can stop it from making copies, you can stop the infection in its tracks, protecting both patients and anyone they may transmit the virus to.”
According to George, the goal of the study is to determine if the treatment produces better outcomes. “That means faster recovery times, fewer patients on ventilators and more people surviving,” she explains. The initial findings of the study have been promising, with a 31% decrease in the duration of the illness for people treated with remdesivir.
Researchers at Washington University are investigating the impact of an antidepressant on preventing COVID-19 symptoms from worsening. “In about half of people who are hospitalized, the virus has two stages,” says principal investigator Dr. Eric Lenze. “Milder symptoms are followed by a life-threatening immune response called a cytokine storm.” While fluvoxamine normally is used as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, it also interacts with a protein important to the body’s inflammatory response. “The drug activates the receptor and blocks the storm,” he notes. “By administering it early, we could potentially stop conditions from getting worse.” Fluvoxamine could be a game-changer because it is widely available and inexpensive.
Blood plasma: People who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their blood that target the virus. Wash. U. is studying whether transfusing plasma from survivors could be used to treat patients currently fighting the infection.
Antimalarial drugs: The FDA gave emergency approval for hospitals to use chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat severe cases of the virus, but the strategy is unproven. Researchers at Wash. U. are testing their effectiveness.