With over 3.6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, the world remains in total panic and pandemonium.
As of May 4th, 2020 over 252 thousand deaths from the novel coronavirus has been recorded. These worrying statistics have kept scientists and researchers busy – searching for the cure. With the way new cases keep popping up around the world, we might be left to rue more deaths if we fail to find a vaccine soon.
Aside from these sad deaths, economies, worldwide events, and businesses have been greatly affected by the spread of the coronavirus. Currencies have lost value while many people are losing their jobs daily.
The continuation of the precautionary lockdown might cripple some economy. Young children are losing connection from their studies while athletes are losing fitness sitting at home.
Although all these procedures are for our safety and health. The world needs answers. A vaccine is needed to save us from this awkward situation.
Medical aids have been available to contain the symptoms of the coronavirus. About 1.2 million people have successfully recovered from the virus. However, this isn’t enough. So far the virus is still spreading, the potential death rate is still on the high end without a cure.
Recently, there have talked about how chloroquine and its derivative hydroxychloroquine can help block coronavirus. Likewise, the immune-boosting properties of Zinc have made it popular in covid19 potential cure mentions.
Do these drugs pass the requirements for a verified vaccine enough to adopt them as a cure for the deadly covid19 virus?
Well, with history and recent researches about these drugs, we can find interesting facts that would be useful. However, we must understand what makes a vaccine verifiable and how early a vaccine can be developed.
WHAT ARE VACCINES?
Vaccines are antigen fighters. They are injected into the body to train the immune system against disease.
Usually, when a virus or bacteria invades the body, the immune system reacts by producing antibodies that fight this foreign bacteria or virus.
Daily, the immune system produces millions of antibodies that fight various antigens that invade the body. It does this so efficiently that we don’t even realize or feel sick from the infection.
Unfortunately, some very dangerous antigens like whooping cough bacteria or flu virus can invade the body. For these antigens, the immune system takes days to come up with the right antibody to fight them for the first time. Because of these potentials, a few days might be too long for the body to wait. This often makes us ill due to these dangerous antigens.
That’s where vaccines are needed. These antigen fighters are developed from weakened or dead versions of these dangerous viruses. This version is unable to make you ill but when introduced into the body, the immune system still finds them foreign and produces antibodies to fight them.
The good thing, however, is that, even if it takes days, you won’t fall ill. When the immune system eventually produces a fighter antibody, it is stored in the immune cells called memory cells. So, when the real virus finds its way into your body, the immune system will gun it down instantly!
Fabulous, right? Why doesn’t every virus have a vaccine then, right?
CAUSES OF DELAY IN CORONAVIRUS VACCINE DEVELOPMENT
As slick as the functions of vaccines looks, it is a critical treatment method. First, when new viruses attack the body, we need time to understand its mode of operation in the body. We need to know every one of its potentials. Whether it is asymptomatic or not, contagious or not, or whether it spreads fast or not.
The symptoms and severity of different persons must be fully understood. This will let us know if we can go ahead to inject a “supposedly” weakened or dead version of it into the body. Any mistake means we further infect people ourselves.
For coronavirus, we are yet to fully grasp everything about it. Although, we’ve been able to realize its asymptomatic nature – which accounts for over 60% of its spread. We have also been able to know a few of its means of person-to-person transmissions.
But are these enough to develop coronavirus vaccine? Are we ready to try it out? Maybe, or maybe not. But we are surely getting close.
Another factor causing a delay is the standards of vaccine developments. Developing a coronavirus vaccine will take nothing less than 10 months to a year. Although, with the urgent need for a coronavirus vaccine, it is possible to fast track this process by bypassing some governmental approval stages of coronavirus vaccine development.
However, there are critical stages such as laboratory and animal studies (exploratory research and pre-clinical stage), and the trial phases (phases I-IV). All these must be duly accomplished before approval and licensure of a coronavirus vaccine can occur.
All of these will take a lot of time. Even with technological advancements and strength of investments, we might still have to wait for a while to be certain we can proceed with coronavirus vaccine development. A proper understanding of the coronavirus is needed. Then, we can then wait through the long stages of coronavirus vaccine development.
So, what’s the way out? Are there potential drugs that can help limit the strength of this coronavirus? Is there hope of a drug re-purposing?
This is where the talks about the potential of chloroquine and zinc in blocking covid19 symptoms come in.
ROLE OF CHLOROQUINE IN BLOCKING COVID19 SYMPTOMS
Chloroquine is an FDA-approved antimalarial drug developed in 1934 by Bayer pharmaceutical company. It was popular for its role in curing malaria during World War II. It was approved in 1949 while its derivative hydroxychloroquine was developed and approved in 1955.
The hydroxychloroquine was more preferred going forward due to its reduced side effects when compared to chloroquine.
Both drugs are available in pills form. They are originally used for treating malaria. However, they were later approved by the FDA for treating rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Chloroquine and Covid19 Talks
During the outbreak of MERS, the second pandemic virus from the group of coronaviruses in 2012, random drugs were tested for potentials in blocking covid19 symptoms. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine showed the ability to block the coronavirus.
These tests were conducted in vitro. This involves the use of a petri dish or test tube to test infecting cells. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine proved effective in blocking the coronavirus from entering and multiplying the cells. But in vitro testing only involves test tube trials rather than human or animal trials.
However, the urgency and increasing death rate of the novel coronavirus, covid19 has prompted trials of potentials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in blocking covid19 symptoms. This trial was backed by an FDA issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that allows emergency supply and availability of these drugs to doctors and health facilities.
This has prompted researchers to dust their papers and dive into deep research that could validate the potentials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in blocking covid19 symptoms. Although data to support this is limited, few research studies have been submitted to this effect.
On March 16, a report from research by Jianjun et al, on the apparent efficacy of chloroquine phosphate on treating covid19 associated pneumonia was received. This study which involved over 100 covid19 patients from china showed that people who took chloroquine had less severe and shorter illness periods than those who didn’t. Although promising, the circumstances of the study, the profile of the patients, and the results of the study are not enough to conclude on the potentials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in blocking covid19 symptoms.
This report was followed up by another small study from France where Gautret et al used hydroxychloroquine to reduce the effects of covid19. The patients who took 600mg of hydroxychloroquine showed a significant reduction of viral carriage of covid19. When hydroxychloroquine was supplemented with azithromycin, in the same study, 6 more people showed an even lower viral load of covid19.
But the sample size of the patients tested and some ambiguity in the initial state of the patients’ health makes the claim of this study insufficient.
Finally, a study in Wuhan where the virus originated showed that hydroxychloroquine was effective for mild symptoms of covid19. 62 random covid19 patients were tested for the potentials of hydroxychloroquine in improving cough and fever. 23 of the 31 people who took 400 mg of hydroxychloroquine showed improved recovery from cough and fever within 5 days of administering the hydroxychloroquine. 17 from the other 31 showed less improvement, forming the basis of the results of this research.
Also Read: Is It Common Cold Or A Deadly Virus?- 2 Flues That May Kill You
Still, this is quite a small group, making the result insufficient.
On the other hand, some researchers found hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to even worsen covid19 patients’ health.
Research by Molina et al countered the claims from Gautret et al about the potentials of a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in the reduction of viral load in the body. Recent results from Tang et al and a retrospective study in the US by Magagnoli et al have further dented the positive results earlier presented in support of the potentials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in blocking covid19 symptoms.
So, the potentials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in blocking covid19 symptoms have attracted divided opinions. The fact that the FDA hasn’t approved these drugs either make them unqualified as repurposed drugs for covid19 treatments.
FDA earlier issued a warning against using either chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine in blocking covid19 symptoms. It mentioned only the approved usage of these drugs, that is, as an antimalarial is advised and should be strictly adhered to. Using these drugs outside the prescribed dosage puts people at risk of serious side effects such as abnormal heart rhythm (QT prolongation), hypoglycemia, muscle weakness and pain, irreversible visual changes, and worsening of psoriasis.
ROLE OF ZINC IN BLOCKING COVID19 SYMPTOMS
Zinc has long built a reputation for helping the immune system to fight off infection. It is a good antioxidant that assists the body in making protein and DNA.
Additionally, it is a nutrient that can be easily found in a variety of foods. Its deficiency can lead to fertility problems such as erectile dysfunction, irregular menstrual cycle, male infertility, and others like diarrhea, hair loss, loss of appetite, reduced resistance to infections, and poor growth.
Zinc and Covid19 Talks
So, why Zinc?
Along with its numerous health benefits, zinc has been studied to be effective in shortening the effects of the common cold. Taking a zinc supplement can help prevent or treat the common cold.
But, unlike coronavirus cold, the common cold is caused by rhinoviruses. These rhinoviruses come from a family of viruses known as rhinoceros, which attack the upper respiratory tract.
Although zinc has been effective in warding off cold caused by rhinoviruses, we can’t conclude that it will do so for cold caused by coronaviruses. But, we are amid a pandemonium, it is logical to try out the potentials of zinc in blocking covid19 symptoms.
Although, there is very limited research to support this claim. Researchers have been suggesting a combination of hydroxychloroquine, vitamin C and D, and zinc in blocking covid19 symptoms. The suggestions were that the hydroxychloroquine can help move zinc inside the infected cells to destroy the coronavirus. Then, the vitamins will help boost the immune system.
These are still just suggestions, some verifiable research and tests will have to be carried out to confirm the potentials of these combinations in blocking covid19 symptoms.
Zinc is very good for the body, but it is not approved as a repurposed drug for covid19 treatments. Although, it might have the potential of blocking covid19 symptoms such as a cold. Zinc usage outside prescription is prohibited. Too much of zinc can lead to anemia, damage to the nervous system, copper deficiency, loss of smell, diarrhea, the impaired formation of red blood cells, vomiting, cramps, and low levels of HDL cholesterol.
Covid19, the novel coronavirus has put the world in a panic. With over 252 thousand deaths already around the world, the world needs help. We need a cure!
Talks of coronavirus vaccines keep popping up day-by-day yet we haven’t been able to make record significant progress. The fact that we are still struggling to fully understand the novel coronavirus has crippled our progress towards developing a coronavirus vaccine.
Coupled with the long stages of coronavirus vaccine development, looking at other potential drugs that could be effective in blocking coivd19 symptoms is therefore advised.
Drug repurposing has been long practiced. With chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, originally developed for treating malaria, repurposed for treating rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. This contributed to reasons why they are being considered as potential drugs that can block covid19 symptoms.
Although an in vitro test confirmed the potentials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in blocking covid19 symptoms, it is not sufficient. Human or animal tests are needed to buttress the claims.
Researchers have been trying out a random study using both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to block covid19 symptoms. But the results are limited. With recent studies further countering results that earlier showed the potentials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in blocking covid19 symptoms in humans, further ambiguity has set in.
Likewise, zinc has been touted to have some potential for blocking covid19 symptoms. Because it is known for its effectiveness in treating common colds that result from a rhinovirus infection, a trial about its potential in blocking covid19 symptoms is sought.
However, until chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, or zinc becomes an FDA-approved drug for blocking covid19 symptoms, it is not advised to use them as a repurposed drug for covid19 treatments.
These drugs have harmful side effects and could put you at higher risks of health problems. So, while researchers and doctors continue to fight on our behalf, seeking a coronavirus vaccine development, you should stay indoors and stay safe.
Tags: Covid19 symptoms, Covid19 treatment, coronavirus vaccine development
Henry holds a diploma in Linguistics and is fluent in both, written and verbal Spanish. He is an avid reader and loves to stay updated about the healthcare industry. If you are reading about any major breakthrough in the medical field, know that Henry is the one who brought it to you.