Infectious Diseases

Updated 13 March 2020

Best first-line treatment for coronavirus might be existing drugs

In a rush to control the current coronavirus sweeping through the world, experts reckon that existing antiviral agents could be the best quick response to the virus.

As of today, more than 80 000 cases of the new coronavirus (now named COVID-19) have been announced.

But as there is no novel cure or vaccine in sight, doctors have to ensure that those who are ill can fight the infection.

'Drug repurposing'

However, a coalition of European researches stated that drugs that already exist and are approved may be the key to treating the virus as a first measure. Doctors have already been treating the coronavirus with existing antivirals such a oseltamivir and lopinavir, or a combination of existing drugs, and research findings have been published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, according to a news report.

"Drug repurposing is a strategy for generating additional value from an existing drug by targeting diseases other than that for which it was originally intended," said Denis Kainov, the senior author on the paper and an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "For example, teicoplanin, oritavancin, dalbavancin and monensin are approved antibiotics that have been shown to inhibit corona- and other viruses in the laboratory."

While the coronavirus has caused several fatalities, the World Health Organization states that this is mostly the case for older people, people with pre-existing medical conditions and those with strained respiratory systems.

Higher probability of success

In milder cases, COVID-2019 simply causes mild symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore through and fever.

Researchers say that the advantage of using existing drugs is that the details of those drugs are already known.

"Therefore, repositioning of launched or even failed drugs to viral diseases provides unique translational opportunities, including a substantially higher probability of success to market as compared with developing new virus-specific drugs and vaccines, and a significantly reduced cost and timeline to clinical availability," the researchers wrote.

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