More than 150 different drugs are being researched around the world. Most are existing drugs that are being trialled against the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the Solidarity trial aimed at assessing the most promising treatments
The UK says its Recovery trial is the the world’s biggest, with more than 11,000 patients taking part. One of the drugs it is looking at – dexamethasone – has been shown to help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus.
And multiple research centres around the world are attempting to use survivors’ blood as a treatment
What types of drugs might work?
There are three broad approaches being investigated:
Antiviral drugs that directly affect the coronavirus’s ability to thrive inside the body
Drugs that can calm the immune system – patients become seriously ill when their immune system overreacts and starts causing collateral damage to the body
Antibodies, either from survivors’ blood or made in a lab, that can attack the virus
What is the most promising coronavirus drugs?
Dexamethasone, the first drug shown to save the lives of people with Covid-19, has been hailed as a breakthrough.
Initial findings showed the low-cost steroid cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and a fifth for those on oxygen.
Coronavirus infection triggers inflammation as the body tries to fight it off.
This can prompt the immune system to go into overdrive, and it’s this reaction that can prove fatal. Dexamethasone damps down this response.
What is dexamethasone and how does it work?
Clinical trials of remdesivir, an antiviral drug originally developed to treat Ebola, have also been encouraging .
A US-led trial of over 1,000 people worldwide found remdesivir cut the duration of symptoms from 15 days to 11. Some were given the drug and others were given a placebo (dummy) treatment.
It is one of the four drugs in the Solidarity trial and its manufacturer, Gilead, is also organising trials.
However, although remdesivir may aid recovery – and possibly stop people having to be treated in intensive care – studies have so far not given any clear indication whether it can prevent deaths from coronavirus.
It is thought that antivirals may be more effective in the early stages, and immune drugs later in the disease.
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