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COVID-19 treatments for better protection against future variants identified

An international team led by researchers from the University of Kent in the UK and the Goethe-University in Germany tested the sensitivity of different SARS-CoV-2 Omicron and Delta viruses to combinations of the four currently approved antiviral drugs with betaferon.

August 31, 2022 / 03:40 PM IST
(Representational image)

(Representational image)


Researchers have identified new therapies for COVID-19 that they say could provide better protection against future variants and outbreaks.


An international team led by researchers from the University of Kent in the UK and the Goethe-University in Germany tested the sensitivity of different SARS-CoV-2 Omicron and Delta viruses to combinations of the four currently approved antiviral drugs with betaferon.


Betaferon is a class of antiviral drug that is also naturally produced in the body and protect it from virus infections. The recent COVID-19 waves have caused fewer hospitalisations and deaths than the initial ones — largely due to the immunity provided by vaccines, the researchers said.


However, many people have defects in their immune systems and cannot effectively protect themselves from COVID-19 by vaccination and rely on effective antiviral therapies, they said.


The researchers noted that threat of resistance formation for antiviral drugs, which can happen quickly and cause problems with treatment, also adds to the need for new treatments for future-proofing our protection against COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The study, published in the Journal of Infection, found new combination therapies that are highly effective in cell culture experiments and that may reduce the formation of novel variants. ”These are exciting findings that will hopefully help to improve the treatment of vulnerable COVID-19 patients and to avoid the formation of resistant viruses as much as possible,” said Professor Martin Michaelis, from the University of Kent.


Currently, there are three approved antiviral drugs for the treatment of COVID-19: remdesivir, molnupiravir, and nirmatrelvir — the active agent in paxlovid. Moreover, aprotinin is an approved drug, whose anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity was discovered by the same research team, and it was recently shown to be beneficial in COVID-19 patients.


The findings show that interferon combination with molnupiravir, nirmatrelvir, and aprotinin were much more effective than interferon combinations with remdesivir. This may explain, why remdesivir/interferon combinations have so far shown limited improvement compared to remdesivir alone, according to the researchers. Interferon combinations with the other three drugs should be tested in the clinics, they said.

”If these findings are confirmed in patients, I hope that more effective therapies will help us to reduce the formation of novel dangerous COVID-19 variants,” said Professor Jindrich Cinatl from Goethe-University.

PTI
first published: Aug 31, 2022 03:40 pm
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