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COVID-19: This 1970s drug prevents novel coronavirus from damaging lungs

Aviptadil is usually used to treat erectile dysfunction in men and Geneva-based pharma company Relief Therapeutics Holdings AG RFLB.S holds a patent for the proprietary drug formulation.

August 15, 2020 / 11:05 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

Doctors in the United States have been using a new drug to treat coronavirus patients -- RLF-100 or Aviptadil. The 1970 drug has reportedly helped alleviate respiratory distress in critically ill COVID-19 patients, by effectively halting the novel coronavirus replication in the lungs.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved of it for emergency use already.

Aviptadil is an old proprietary drug formulation of synthetic human Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide (VIP) that is produced by immune cells and nerve endings in the human body. It is released throughout the body but is concentrated in the lungs and acts as a neurotransmitter. VIP improves muscle activity and is also known to better blood flow in the gastrointestinal tract.

However, it is the anti-inflammatory and anti-cytokine properties of the VIP that are helping in alleviating respiratory distress in COVID019 patients.

Studies have revealed that it helps protect alveolar type II cells which facilitate oxygen exchange in the lungs. The novel coronavirus is known to attack the lungs and cause breathing troubles, which Aviptadil may be able to prevent by limiting damage to the alveolar cells and the lungs.


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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Houston Methodist Hospital was the first to report recovery in a critically ill COVID-19 patient who was administered the 1970 drug.

Aviptadil is usually used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. Geneva-based pharma company Relief Therapeutics Holdings AG RFLB.S has a patent for RLF-100.

Follow our coverage of the coronavirus crisis here
Jagyaseni Biswas
first published: Aug 15, 2020 11:05 pm

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