Scientists around the globe are working hard to combat the rising number of infections. They offer a variety of treatments as well as unusual vaccine options.
Levels of contagion are setting new records, hospitals are overwhelmed, governments are starting to introduce lockdowns, and not only for unvaccinated people – the picture of the fight against Covid-19 looks quite disappointing. However, there’s still a place for good news: Research teams report positive results while trialling new medicines and vaccine types.
Covid-19 will continue to be a major threat. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself. Professor David Dockrell of the University of Edinburgh’s Center for Inflammation Research, stated that vaccination is the best way to fight Covid-19. “vaccines will continue to be a central part of how we control the virus.”
“If we can dampen down the number of infections, and the severity of infections, and also the extent to which the virus can replicate in people when they become infected, then we are slowing down the ability of the virus to change and to mutate,”He elaborates.
It is my opinion that vaccines are still an essential part of the prevention strategy. It’s vital that they are available to all the world’s population, irrespective of where people live, and the wealth of the country in which they live.
However, vaccination doesn’t always mean you have to get an injection. Several intranasal Covid-19 vaccinations are being created, for example. Nasal sprays or drops can be used to prevent the virus from entering the lungs.
A Phase 2 trial for a similar vaccine has been completed in India. Russian volunteers are currently undergoing clinical trials for a nasal vaccine. The home-developed product will be tested in Thailand next spring. The Universities of Houston, Stanford and California recently published positive results from their mouse experiments.
There are many benefits to intramuscular vaccines over inoculation.
“They would be easier to use, because they can be self-administered. They wouldn’t need a nurse or clinical settings,”Marcello Ferrada de Noli, a professor emeritus in epidemiology from Sweden, explained his views to RT. As a result, he says, there’s hope that fewer people will be reluctant to be immunized. Not so many of us find it pleasant to get a jab – and after all, there are those who are just afraid of needles. It would also be easier to give vaccines using nasal products.
Prof. de Noli’s biggest concern is how long the vaccine lasts. Still, scientists can’t say for sure whether a nasal substance may completely replace a shot. Alexander Gintsburg is the director of Moscow’s Gamaleya Center, a biomedical research center that created the Sputnik V vaccine. The nasal version, which they are currently developing, would offer additional protection but wouldn’t replace shots.
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Not the only nasal vaccine being made is this one. In summer, it was revealed that Russian Defense Ministry scientists were creating a ‘chewing gum’ vaccine, also targeting the mucosal immune response. A UK company announced that they would be conducting a human test of its skin patch, which uses T-cells in order to combat the virus. The developers hope that the patch will offer a longer-lasting immune system than current vaccines. The University of Queensland in Australia is working on a similar project.
Although it looks promising, Professor de Noli cautions that these products will not be available immediately. “I think that discoveries in this field are a very good thing. But if we say ‘We discovered a new type of vaccine’, people will say ‘Aha, so I’m going to wait’. But we need to vaccinate people now,”He points it out.
Improved Covid therapy
Unfortunately, vaccines don’t work as a miracle cure due to the low global vaccination rate and constantly evolving strains. “People might get infected despite having had a vaccine, but I still think the vaccine strategy is going to be central to how we manage this kind of virus going forward,”Professor Dockrell. “But we will have other strategies that will be very important. Other elements will also be available. When we put them all together, it gives us the best opportunity that people can live with coronaviruses, and hopefully, the mortality can be limited to much lower extense than what we’ve sadly seen in the last eighteen months.”
Prof. Dockrell says monoclonal antibody will play a central role in the current vaccine strategy. These are antibodies that the body has used to combat the virus. They are produced in labs and given via infusion or injection to boost the patient’s response against certain diseases. Patients at high risk for severe infections (e.g. older people 65+ or patients with chronic conditions) can be treated using monoclonal antibodies. It’s already being used in the US, following last year’s FDA approval. In November the European Medicines Agency recommended that two monoclonal anti-body medicines be approved.
In October, UK’s AstraZeneca reported positive results of a Phase 3 study of its antibody combination, which, according to developers, is highly effective in both prevention and treatment of coronavirus.
Researchers are also working on a possibility to save Covid-infected patients from the so-called ‘cytokine storm’ – a situation when the immune system reacts so intensely that kills not only the virus, but the whole organism itself. A drug to ‘calm the storm’ was registered in Russia this year, and it’s already being used on patients.
Antiviral medications are another way to combat Covid-19. The pandemic began when medics were forced to either use an already approved anti-influenza Favipiravir or something that was authorized for use in emergencies (remdesivir). More than one year later, work is underway to develop a drug that specifically treats Covid-19. Russia’s first injectable anticovid medicine was approved by the European Union this month. The UK was the first to accept an antiviral medication made by US companies Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck. Another American firm, Pfizer, got positive results from trials of its drug of the same kind. Both companies believe that a pill-form drug would make it simpler to treat patients at home.
Prof. de Noli acknowledges all of the work done in developing anti-Covid therapy, but he points out the most important issue right now, which is to limit the spread of this virus. “The new medicines are developed for people who already got the disease,”He said.
We need to stop people getting infected.
The same idea is echoed by scientists all over the world quoted in plenty of articles dedicated to the medical gains: it’s great to have the treatment, but none of the drugs may substitute vaccination, as first and foremost, humanity has to adopt preventive measures and stop the pandemic.
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