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Coronavirus pandemic: A look at all the COVID-19 'cures' suggested so far

Over the past two months, several suggestions have surfaced vis-a-vis a cure for coronavirus, some of which were even based on traditional medicine.

May 06, 2020 / 09:15 PM IST

The global scientific and medical research community is still struggling to find a cure for COVID-19 that has already killed thousands of people across the world.

Earlier this week, a laboratory run by the Israeli Defence service claimed they have isolated an antibody that could effectively treat COVID-19. It has, however not been tested outside of a petri dish and even human trials are months away.

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Given no definite cure for the novel coronavirus is known to mankind yet, several experts and others have come up with various suggestions for treating the disease.

While some were found to be effective when taken in combination with other drugs, others helped in relieving the symptoms associated with the disease; some others were even outright junked by the medical community.

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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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Let us take a look at them:

Right at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in India, a BJP MLA had suggested that cow excreta would help cure the infection. The claim was later backed by the Hindu Mahasabha and a “gau mutra party", on the lines of tea parties, was arranged by them.

Then the ruling BJP was again caught in the throes of a controversy after the AYUSH Ministry had suggested that homoeopathic medicine Arsenicum Album, which is usually used to treat anxiety, insomnia, etc., would prevent coronavirus infections. Several modern medicos who practice allopathy and western medicine had questioned the efficacy of the same. Several Unani preventive cures were also suggested by the ministry such as consuming harityaki, samshamani, etc.

After this came the anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine. United States President Donald Trump had quickly announced that the said drug has helped cure patients of the deadly disease and the medicine started flying off the shelf in no time. There were even reports of people consuming the drug as a prevention method without consulting any medical practitioner. In fact, there was a mad rush among nations to procure the drug from India as well. It has recently been disproved as the miracle cure for the virus and doctors have clarified it only shows result in some cases when taken in combination with other drugs.

Coronavirus pandemic | How does COVID-19 compare to other pandemics, outbreaks?

Surprisingly, the US President had once mulled over possibilities of injecting Americans with disinfectants or exposing them to a high dose of ultraviolet rays, hoping these would kill the pathogen inside their body.

More recently, he suggested another drug called Remdesivir, which he claimed was a promising “hot thing”. This was the drug that was used to treat SARS and MERS. However, doctors are already using it with caution until laboratory tests can establish its efficacy.

In India, medical practitioners found plasma therapy to be effective in certain cases. As a result, hospitals had started urging recovered COVID-19 patients to donate their plasma to treat other infected patients. It is believed that the antibodies developed in the blood of COVID-19 patients who have already recovered can help fight new infections. Doubts are however being raised over the efficacy of this method as well.

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Jagyaseni Biswas
first published: May 6, 2020 09:15 pm

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