Coronavirus Treatments| 80 Clinical Trials Are Going On

WHO attempts to arrange trials that include traditional Chinese medicines, stem cells, and HIV drugs

Coronavirus Treatments| 80 Clinical Trials Are Going On
Coronavirus Treatments

Coronavirus Treatment 80 Clinical Trials Are Going On    


As the number of deaths exceeds 1700, scientists are desperately seeking the ultimate cure for COVID-19. Currently, 48,000 people are affected by this virus in China and experts are applying clinical trials on them. Some of the 80 trials are ongoing, and others are on their way. 

China maintains a registry on clinical trials. The record enlists both traditional therapies and new pharmaceutical drugs in it, and it is growing larger and larger day by day. Though there is no cure, doctors try to help the affected people. Scientists suggest that the trials that have been conducted carefully will work only.  

The World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan says her teams are collecting all the trials in China and are establishing a framework that will make a clinical trial protocol to fight this outbreak on an international level. The trials in China have 600 people in each. Without maintaining some study standards like randomization, measures of clinical outcomes, and control groups, the trials will not see the light of success. For finding out a standard form of treatment, the WHO is working along with the scientists in China. Swaminathan says, “We can hopefully bring some sort of structure into the whole thing.”

The WHO designed this protocol flexibly so that the scientists can submit their study results within the shortest possible time from anywhere. It has chosen two or three therapies after making a comparison among them with scientific evidence. They are lopinavir and ritonavir; an HIV-drug combination and remdesivir; an experimental antiviral.  

Swaminathan says, “Getting the clinical trials straight is a priority since if we get information on what is working and not working, we can benefit patients now.”


Best guesses

The WHO’s plan is a unique one as China has already started drug trials based on that protocol. China compares these newer trials with the already prevailing therapies, traditional medicines, and experimental procedures enlisted in the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry. The researchers in China find that the earlier trials lacked efficacy. 

Lopinavir and ritonavir are capable of blocking the virus’s enzyme that is a must for their replication. Coronaviruses can threaten the animals with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)1 and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). But these HIV-drugs can alleviate the levels in the animals, study says. 

Gilead, a biotechnology company in Foster City, California, made a nucleotide analogue; remdesivir. It also showed successful results when scientists applied them to animals. According to the report published in January by the U.S. scientists, one person survived from COVID-19 infection for remdesivir treatment. Following the success of this medicine, China started a trial on 760 COVID-19 affected people in February. As a virologist working at Fudan University, Shanghai, Shibo Jiang remarks that this trial will end in April and the Chinese authority will approve remdesivir in May. He says, “But the epidemic might be gone by then.”    

Another trial includes chloroquine. This malaria drug is capable of killing off the new coronavirus in cell culture. Whether steroids alleviate inflammation or increase harm is the subject of infection for the researchers. Yazdan Yazdanpanah works in INSERM, France’s national health agency situated in Paris. He says, “It will be interesting to see these results.” 

In this registry, there are two stem-cell trials. One of them hints on a trial that includes 28 people infused with stem cells from menstrual blood. Zhejiang University’s First Affiliated Hospital confirms that the stem cells can prevent coronavirus infections after comparing them with others who did not receive the infusions. Although the WHO has not any control over researchers’ activities, there is guidance to maintain ethics on trials amid outbreaks in 2016, Swaminathan says.    

The registry also confirms that more than 2000 people are receiving traditional Chinese medicines in 15 trials. A large portion of them (approximately 400) is having a Chinese herbal medicine, shuanghuanglian. It has been used as an infection treatment for more than 2000 years. It is the extracts from dried fruit (Forsythiae Fructus).

The WHO is working in collaboration with Chinese scientists to arrange all the studies. Both did not overlook the traditional remedies. The organization recognized the herbal medicines along with the latest medicines and gained criticisms from many critics. But, Swaminathan thinks that both herbal remedies and pharmaceutical testing should be tested as we need a better way now. She says, “We want a scientific approach to testing traditional medicine.”


What’s next?

With all these trials running now, researchers are in quest of new drugs capable of fighting multiple coronaviruses that still do not emerge. Researchers have targeted a spike-shaped protein on SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 viruses surface. Compounds and antibodies are on their way as many groups besides Jiang invented them to glom onto that spike. It will defend human cells from coronavirus attacks.     

Emily Erbelding thinks that the studies are only in their initial levels and the invented compounds need further tests before transforming them into medicines. Then the medicines should be applied to animals first. She is a microbiologist working at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Possibilities are many, but the time is limited. So, Jiang says that the WHO should choose a few trials to improve them and cut others with less quality. Even though the outbreak ends in the future, the improvement of the therapies should go on. He says, “I worry this will be the same situation as during SARS,” he says, “where the work starts, then stops.”