In a series of two articles, we talk about the major treatment techniques that are in development currently, concluding with discussing about vaccine development and blood plasma therapy
In the previous part of this series of two articles, we talked about the major drugs currently under research, discussing about remdesivir, Hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine, ibuprofen, and other monoclonal antibodies that are currently used to treat normal autoimmune diseases. Check out that article here if you haven’t already done so.
In the concluding part, we would discuss vaccine development, its limitations, and how far it has reached till now. Apart from this, we would also focus on other forms of medical treatments used to cure patients for other viral diseases.
Vaccine development: What makes it so difficult?
A total of about 7 million people have been infected by the COVID-19 until now, and more than 400 K people have died worldwide. One of the primary questions that arise is, why is there no vaccine developed, and what is taking so long? To be very straightforward, the answer would be, it is difficult, but let’s dive deep into the biology and chemistry of viruses and vaccines.
To start with, viruses are made up of either ribonucleic acid (RNA) or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Both of these genetic materials are capable of mutating quickly, as seen with viruses such as HIV or H1N1. And since viruses mutate very quickly, this property makes any cure or vaccine very difficult.
Apart from this, vaccines follow a six-phase development procedure, including three clinical trials. Because of this, vaccines take many more years to reach the market than other drugs do. The bottom line is, by the time a vaccine has been developed and labeled as safe to use, the emergency may possibly be over. If the urgency of vaccine development decreases due to this or any other reasons, the development would come to an absolute halt, and this is what happened with the SARS vaccine.
There can be many more reasons why vaccine development is slower to development of other drugs, for example, certain speculations have shown us that a vaccine is not as profitable for a pharmaceutical company as a painkiller is. Apart from all of this, economic, environmental, and political factors also come at play to hinder or slow down development.
So should we hope for vaccines?
Definitely we should, and though the development of a vaccine has never been successfully done before at least several years of that disease being discovered, with the accelerated development and research since this became a global pandemic, we are seeing multiple organizations collecting resources and contracting deadlines for the quick development of vaccines.
We are already seeing successful results of the development and initial stages of testing from amongst the top research labs in the world. Many foundations, such as the WHO, CEPI, and Gates Foundation are committing money and organizational resources for research. With prominent countries such as the USA, UK, China, India, Australia, and Russia coming forward with their own sets of research, it does seem that the world could soon see a vaccine for COVID-19 if all the commercialization and sovereignty issues are dealt with nicely.
Here is a list of the major vaccines under development, and the stages of development they are in. Most of them are now approaching clinical trials, so let’s hope the next time you read an article like this, you see a couple of them in the global market as well.
Other treatment methods
One of the major alternative treatment methods being tested upon is convalescent blood plasma therapy. Let’s see how this works.
When people get infected from a particular virus and then become healthy, this is called convalesce. This means their immune system has successfully developed antibodies to fight the virus. Doctors have used antibody therapy for more than a hundred years now.
Researchers at multiple laboratories are trying to find if blood plasma therapy is effective in the COVID situation. Plasma is, for those of you do not know, the clear, straw-colored fluid portion that carries blood cells, proteins, platelets, and antibodies. Let’s hope that there is a way by which if an immune blood plasma is infused in a patient’s blood, it can adapt to the virus and successfully inhibit its growth and harm to the patient.
Over this series of two articles, we discussed major methods of supposed treatment of the coronavirus, and though there is no rigorous method to pronounce a clear winner out of these, we know that medical sciences would help us figure out something that would help us fight this monster, and till then, social distancing and hand hygiene remains our best ‘prevention techniques’.