The novel coronavirus has spread to every continent excluding Antarctica. While face masks and social distancing measures have helped to slow the spread, more people all over the world are dying from the disease, and still more are catching the disease. As the world continues to react to the novel coronavirus pandemic, more people are looking to the horizon for a feasible coronavirus cure. Can COVID be cured? Read on to learn more.
Current Treatment Options
At this point, there is no cure for the coronavirus. This means that, once you have the virus, the only cure lies within your body's immune system. The human immune system is surprisingly powerful and effective. It is tasked with differentiating between your own cells and foreign entities, like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Your body depends on this response to fight off the coronavirus.
The body has to recognize and create antibodies against the coronavirus, which takes time. The fact that this is “novel” coronavirus refers to the fact that it is new and that no one has a natural immunity to it yet, which also makes it highly contagious. While the body tries to develop its own antibodies to fight off this virus, the virus replicates and damages cells in the respiratory tract and lungs.
Those with healthy immune systems can mount a response more quickly. For those without a compromised immune system, the current coronavirus treatment options revolve around simple remedies to maintain comfort while the immune system does its job. This usually involves:
- Fluid intake
- Fever and pain relievers, like acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
- Cough syrup1
Some cases of COVID-19 may progress to pneumonia, a lung infection causing inflammation in the air sacs in your lungs. These sacs may fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe and manifesting in chest pain, fatigue, and chills. Serious cases where pneumonia inhibits breathing require mechanical ventilation with oxygen. Ventilators can introduce more air into the lungs via a mask or tube inserted directly into the windpipe.2 This supports your breathing while your body ramps up its defense against the virus.
Researchers are also working on a variety of experimental treatments with varying levels of success. Most of these agents work to lower the viral load, which allows your body more time to manage the infection naturally.
Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are anti-malarial medications that may also present antiviral properties. In vitro studies found that chloroquine effectively inhibited the growth of the novel coronavirus in lung cells.3
The anti-malarial has also been implemented in some treatment guidelines in China and Korea. In China, studies suggest that chloroquine phosphate may improve the success rate of treatment, improve patient outcomes, and shorten hospital stays for those with novel coronavirus pneumonia.4 Korean physicians have also determined similar treatment guidelines using chloroquine.5
A study from France similarly reported that combining chloroquine with azithromycin produced better outcomes than chloroquine taken alone. Although azithromycin is an antibiotic (and thus does not have an effect on viruses), it may help to combat bacterial infections occurring alongside the coronavirus infection.6
However, it is important to note that further studies are necessary, and that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine still remain experimental. The FDA currently limits usage to emergency situations involving hospitalized patients who can be monitored around the clock. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine come with some severe side effects, mainly heart issues. Along with potentially causing harm to yourself, taking these medications may also result in taking them away from those who actually have malaria.7
Remdesivir is an experimental antiviral drug that was originally tested on the Ebola virus, as well as MERS and SARS. This drug is believed to work by interfering with a virus’ replication ability, thereby inhibiting its growth. Remdesivir is currently undergoing clinical trials.8
Vaccines allow you to develop antibodies to the virus without actually exposing you to the virus. Researchers are currently working to find a vaccine or viable COVID-19 cure. However, the process of isolating the virus and developing a vaccine takes a great deal of time and, most importantly, testing. Without testing, there’s no way to know if the vaccine would work as intended to help your body develop the necessary immunities. In the worst case, untested medication could lead to illness or further public health issues. Experts suggest that it may take up to a year to develop a vaccine.1
Currently, the best treatment for the novel coronavirus is prevention. Many states have established stay-at-home orders to increase social distancing measures. If you do need to go out in public, keep a distance of at least six to ten feet from others.
Make sure you wear a mask when going out in public. Elastomeric respirators are the best, followed by N95, surgical style masks, and then by cloth masks. While going out, sanitize your hands after handling money, cell phones, shopping carts, gas pumps, and so forth.
Wash your hands as soon as you get back home and avoid touching your face unless you have just washed your hands.
With these tips, you can stay healthy and help flatten the curve.