In general, there are 4 or 5 main ways to “treat” Covid-19:
This would be the best. However, it’s also the one that takes the longest time to develop, involves the most extensive research, costs the most money, and so on. It’s at least a year away. And that would be extremely fast. By comparison, consider that a vaccine was eventually developed against Ebola, but it took approximately 5 years. If I recall, I think it only arrived last year in 2019. Yet 5 years is more typical of the timeframe in vaccine development.
2. A new drug.
This would take slightly less research effort and time than a vaccine. Even if we accelerate it.
3. An old drug.
By this I mean a drug that has been used in other diseases or conditions but is re-purposed for the use in Covid-19. This is where most of the drugs we hear about in the news would be categorized. Such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. These drugs were anti-malarial drugs and also used in rheumatoid diseases like lupus. Today medical experts are trying to re-purpose them for use in Covid-19. However, contrary to what most the media is reporting, there isn’t much good evidence that these drugs will work – at least not yet. There is promise and hope, but only time will tell. By the way, in case anyone is interested, here is a summary of all the clinical trials we are working on to date. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s close.
4. Covalescent plasma therapy.
This is a treatment that’s been around for years. In a general sense, it’s been around even as far back as the Spanish flu in 1918. It was used to some degree in the first SARS pandemic or SARS-1; our pandemic is SARS-2. Many medical experts working in infectious disease and vaccine development have been pushing convalescent plasma therapy (e.g. Peter Hotez at Baylor, Arturo Casadevall at Johns Hopkins, Ian Lipkin at Columbia University). Basically it’s just transferring the antibodies (in blood plasma) from someone who has recovered from Covid-19 to someone who has been infected with Covid-19 (as treatment) or to someone who is at high risk of infection (as prophylaxis). So the elderly, the immunocompromised, health care providers. There wouldn’t likely be enough for the general population, but we can target at-risk groups and perhaps even areas that are seriously affected (e.g. NYC, Seattle). This could help diminish the virus’ spread so that we can get a better handle on things. Clinical trials are already under way. It should move much faster than vaccine development. The medical technology is available today and as such comparatively easy to implement. The major issue is rolling it out. I’m referring to logistics like setting up blood banks, asking for blood donors (though the donation would require much less effort on the donor than, say, donating blood at the Red Cross), and so on. Here’s a short clip of Ian Lipkin talking about convalescent plasma therapy. Likewise here’s an interview excerpt from Peter Hotez talking about the same.
5. Supportive care.
This is primarily what we’re doing now. For the sickest patients, i.e. patients in the ICU with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which is the leading cause of death in Covid-19 patients, it’s basically just trying to give them oxygen, help them breathe better via mechanical ventilation, make sure they stay well-hydrated with fluids, maintain their nutritional status, put them in a prone position (i.e. lying face down) which has been shown to significantly help reduce mortality from ARDS, etc. All this is far better than we had, say, in 1918 with the Spanish influenza, but it falls short of an effective treatment against the SARS-2 virus itself.