Fighting the New Coronavirus in the Absence of a Proven Therapy

By | February 3, 2020

February 3, 2020 — While researchers race to develop a new Coronavirus vaccine, doctors are using currently available drugs to treat severe cases of the virus.

Several patients have seen an improvement in their condition following treatment with a combination of flu and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) medications at the Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. The patients were treated with high-dose oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in combination with the anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, which are available in a single product called Kaletra in the United States and Aluvia in China. Importantly, a 70-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan tested negative to the virus within 48 hours of starting treatment with the cocktail, despite having tested positive for the disease over the previous 10 days. 

An article in The Lancet has also reported that the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir is undergoing investigation in a randomized clinical trial in patients with the Coronavirus at the Jin Yintan Hospital in Wuhan, China. The combination may also be tested in combination with interferon beta-1b (Betaseron, Extavia) in Hong Kong if more patients present with the virus.

Remdesivir, an experimental nucelotide analog being developed by Gilead Sciences, has also been used to treat a 35-year-old man in the United States. According to a case report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the man had recently returned from visiting family in Wuhan and had developed mild symptoms of the virus. When his condition worsened, his pneumonia was treated with intravenous remdesivir. All of the patient’s symptoms resolved following treatment, except for a cough that was continuing to improve. By the end of January, Gilead Sciences had formalized an agreement with Chinese authorities allowing remdesivir to be tested in patients with Coronavirus. Doses of the drug have been provided.

In addition to Gilead’s remdesivir, Biocryst Pharma’s antiviral galidesivir is being investigated and Regneron is looking to identify a monoclonal antibody that might help. Meanwhile, Inovivo Pharmacuticals (INO-4800), Novavax, Moderna Therapeutics and Johnson & Johnson are reported to be working on vaccines. Johnson & Johnson has also supplied 300 boxes of its HIV medication Prezcobix (cobicistat and darunavir) to the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University and Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center for use in research to find a treatment.

Having been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 30 January, the race to find an effective treatment against the new Coronavirus continues.

References

  1. Reuters. Cocktail of flu, HIV drugs appears to help fight coronavirus: Thai doctors. February 3 2020. [Accessed 3 February 2020] Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-thailand-idUSKBN1ZW0GQ
  2. Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. The Lancet 2020 Jan 24. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext [Accessed 3 February 2020]
  3. Science. Can an anti-HIV combination or other exisitng drugs outwit the new coronavirus? January 27 2020. [Accessed 3 February 2020]. Available at: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/01/can-anti-hiv-combination-or-other-existing-drugs-outwit-new-coronavirus
  4. Holshue ML, DeBolt C, Lindquist S et al. First Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States. N Engl J Med 2020 Jan 31 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001191 [Accessed 3 February 2020]
  5. The Wall Street Journal. Gilead Sciences Offers Experimental Drug for Coronavirus Treatments, Testing. January 31, 2020. [Accessed 3 February 2020]. Available at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/gilead-sciences-offers-experimental-drug-for-coronavirus-treatments-testing-11580511519
  6. New Scientist. New coronavirus: How soon will a treatment be ready and will it work? January 30, 2020. [Accessed 3 February 2020]. Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2232026-new-coronavirus-how-soon-will-a-treatment-be-ready-and-will-it-work/
  7. Inovio. Invovio Collaborating with Beijing Advaccine to Advance INO-4800 Vaccine against New Coronavirus in China. January 30, 2020. [Accessed 3 February 2020]. Available at: http://ir.inovio.com/news-and-media/news/press-release-details/2020/Inovio-Collaborating-With-Beijing-Advaccine-To-Advance-INO-4800-Vaccine-Against-New-Coronavirus-In-China/default.aspx
  8. The Wall Street Journal. Biotech Stocks Swing on Coronavirus Vaccine Hopes. January 31, 2020. [Accessed 3 February 2020]. Available at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/biotech-stocks-swing-on-coronavirus-vaccine-hopes-11580472000
  9. Time. Inside the Company That’s Hot Wiring Vaccine Research in the Race to Combat the Coronavirus. February 1, 2020. [Accessed 3 February 2020]. Available at: https://time.com/5775784/coronavirus-vaccine-research/
  10. Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson Launches Multi-Pronged Response to Coronavirus Global Public Health Threat. January 29, 2020. [Accessed 3 February 2020] Available at: https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-launches-multi-pronged-response-to-coronavirus-global-public-health-threat
  11. World Health Organization. Statement on the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/30-01-2020-statement-on-the-second-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov) [Accessed 3 February 2020]

Posted: February 2020

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