The Potential New Coronavirus Treatments Scientists Are Testing to Help Patients With COVID-19

As the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, scientists are working tirelessly to create specific treatments for it.

In the three months since people in the central Chinese city of Wuhan started falling ill with COVID-19, more than half a million people have been diagnosed with the disease globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data shown in the Statista graphic below. A total of 24,127 people have died, and more than 123,300 have recovered.

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A map by Statista showing the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide as of March 26. Statista

As the virus is so new, there are currently no specific drugs to treat sick patients, and no vaccine to prevent it from spreading. Instead, people's symptoms must be managed, either at home or in hospital depending on the severity of their disease.

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According to Science magazine, at least 12 potential treatments for COVID-19 are being tested around the world, including existing HIV and malaria drugs; experimental compounds found to be effective against viruses in animal experiments; and anti-body plasma from recovered patients.

In Australia, for instance, a research institute on Friday announced the launch of a clinical trial to see if a vaccine against tuberculosis can ease COVID-19 symptoms. The team hopes to recruit 4,000 healthcare workers from hospitals in Australia in the coming weeks. Similar trials are happening in Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K., but the one in Australia is one of the largest, Australia Associated Press (AAP) reported.

According to a statement by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), past studies have shown the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine reduces the virus level when people catch pathogens similar to SARS-CoV-2 (the bug which causes COVID-19 but not to be confused with SARS). It has also been found to boost a person's overall immunity. The researchers hope the approach will buy time while a vaccine is developed.

Professor Kathryn North AC, director of the MCRI, said in a statement the preparation "may help save the lives of our heroic frontline healthcare workers."

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Professor Nigel Curtis, a clinician-scientist at MCRI who is leading the study, told the AAP: "It's really the first time the vaccine has been used in this way."

Curtis said: "The vaccine has the ability to 'train' the immune system to respond more strongly to infection."

Meanwhile in the U.S., a woman with COVID-19 claimed she "turned a corner" after healthcare workers gave her a cocktail of existing drugs, Patch.com reported. However, the doctor who treated her stressed a clinical trial, where many people are given a treatment in a controlled way to test how safe and effective it is, is needed to prove it was indeed the drugs which helped her.

During the 10-day period that 53-year-old Margaret Novins was hospitalized at New Jersey's CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, doctors gave her remdesivir⁠—an anti-viral drug created for Ebola with promising results against MERS and SARS⁠— the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, and the antibiotic azithromycin. Novins said she was also given other anti-viral drugs including a HIV medication.

Hydroxychloroquine, covid19, coronavirus, getty
In this photo illustration a pack of Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate medication is held up on March 26, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. U.S. President Donald Trump recently promoted Hydroxychloroquine, a common anti-malaria drug, as a potential treatment for COVID-19 when combined with the antibiotic azithromycin John Phillips/Getty Images

Dr. James Matera, chief medical officer at CentraState, told Patch some COVID-19 patients were receiving the drugs. He cautioned: "The problem is we don't have any large-scale control studies to show that this works.

"A lot of what we're finding is anecdotal evidence: Some doctors have tried it, and gotten a response. Others tried it and gotten no response. That's the problem with a disease that's so new like this."

Scientists in Australia are also among those looking at whether HIV drugs and chloroquine can be used on COVID-19 patients. Earlier this month a team based in Spain's Catalan region announced they were planning a trial of hydroxychloroquine (similar to chloroquine) to see if could prevent people with COVID-19 from spreading the virus on. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a multi-country clinical study of four potential combinations including remdesivir and chloroquine. A team in Canada hopes that a gout drug could prevent people from dying of lung complications.

Oriol Mitja, a researcher at Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute, told reporters according to Reuters: "The goal of our study is to separate the transmission chains."

As scientists investigate potential COVID-19 treatments, health officials warned people not to self-medicate after a man died after he took a fish tank cleaner with similar ingredients to chloroquine.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
The Potential New Coronavirus Treatments Scientists Are Testing to Help Patients With COVID-19 | Health