Two leading infectious disease experts say that researchers should focus not only on the most severe cases of COVID-19, but also on people with milder symptoms to find ways to stop the downward spiral of sickness. Early intervention and even prophylactic or preventive measures would benefit more people in the long run, they said.
Dr. Richard Malley, a physician specializing in infectious disease, and Dr. Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist, pointed out that the dozens of studies on therapies for COVID-19 have been conducted on severely ill patients.
In an opinion piece for The New York Times, the experts said we need clinical studies to find drugs that can prevent people from becoming infected with the virus in the first place, and find treatments that would reduce the severity of symptoms at the onset of the sickness.
"Useful lessons can be drawn from how other acute viral infections are best tackled — chief among them: Act quickly, before infection or as soon as possible after it," they wrote.
One approach is to give potential sufferers antibodies before they contract the disease, so the timing is critical. For example, in the case of chickenpox, antibodies need to be administered within four days of someone being exposed to the virus.
Another way to treat the coronavirus may be to find drugs that kill the virus in the body or prevent it from replicating, said the doctors.
"Those, too, typically are effective only during the early, usually mild, phase of the viral diseases," wrote Malley and Lipsitch.
The COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund was created to "fund outpatient clinical trials on repurposed drugs." Entrepreneur Steven Kirsch started the effort to help discover already approved drugs to treat the disease in its infancy.
According to BGR, Stanford is conducting a new trial giving COVID-19 patients an interferon drug within three days of when they tested positive.
"If successful, such protocols could speed up recovery and reduce the risk of life-threatening complications for patients healing at home," said BGR.
According to the Times, the National Institutes of Health announced last week that they are beginning a trial of 2,000 adults testing whether a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, an antibiotic, can prevent hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients.
The authors in the Times piece said they believe that ultimately, learning how to prevent and treat COVID-19 in the earliest stages of the disease, even before symptoms appear, is a better way to treat the majority of people and contain the illness, instead of tending only to the critically ill.
"It is well documented by now that asymptomatic patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 can transmit the virus. A preventative strategy that not only stopped the virus from causing disease but also stopped its transmission could limit the need for quarantines, lockdowns, and onerous social distancing measures," they said.
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