Published On: Wed, Mar 25th, 2020

Coronavirus treatment: Is there a treatment? Will we get it in the UK?

On Friday, the World Health Organisation announced the Solidarity trial, a global trial to find out whether any existing drugs can treat coronavirus. Hospitals are so overwhelmed and the cure is desperately needed, so the study aims to speed the process up and save as many lives as possible.

Which existing drugs have been found to cure coronavirus so far?

It has emerged that a group of patients in Australia has recovered from the virus after been treated with two existing drugs.

The patients were among the first confirmed cases in the country and were given HIV medication (Kaletra) and malaria treatment (hydroxychloroquine) in an attempt to cure them.

The success of the secret trial means patients from 50 hospitals around Australia will be given the same drugs.

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Remdesivir is a treatment for Ebola that has been found to work against two other coronaviruses – SARS and MERS.

SARS and MERS are more lethal than COVID-19, but less transmissable.

The drug reportedly stops the virus from being able to replicate itself inside cells.

This means it could be extremely effective when a person has first caught the virus.

The only drawback is that people won’t know when they have just contracted the bug – they will most likely only get symptoms after they have high levels of the virus in their cells.

Remdesivir is being evaluated in China, the States, and Asia.

Results of the studies will be revealed in April.

Is the UK involved in the WHO’s Solidarity study?

WHO’s study could include millions of patients in dozens of countries – but the UK is not involved just yet.

The organisation’s director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “This large international study is designed to generate the robust data we need.

“This virus is presenting us with an unprecedented threat, but it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against an enemy, an enemy against humanity.”

The ten countries already committed to the project are:

  • Argentina
  • Behrain
  • Canada
  • France
  • Iran
  • Norway
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand

Mr Ghebreyesus added: “I trust many more will join.”

Is the UK conducting any trials?

Researchers at Oxford University, headed by Professor Sarah Gilbert, are conducting a safety trial on humans next month.

The treatment being tested is expected to be the UK’s first coronavirus vaccine.

If patients respond positively, the next step is a larger trial to test the vaccine’s effectiveness.

The same vaccine will be undergoing animal trials this week at Public Health England’s lab near Salisbury.

The reason the human trials are taking place before animal trials is because similar vaccines have worked safely in other trials for other diseases.

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