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HomeOpinionIndia's perfectly-timed lockdown & wartime efforts to find Covid-19 cure

India’s perfectly-timed lockdown & wartime efforts to find Covid-19 cure

In episode 426 of #CutTheClutter, Shekhar Gupta elaborates on India's lockdown and the ongoing research to develop a treatment plan from existing drugs.

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New Delhi: India is going into a complete coronavirus lockdown and it was important to get the timing of this lockdown right. Many have argued that the lockdown should have been earlier but lockdowns can’t be continued forever. If it was in place earlier, we would have seen fatigue by now.

Stanford professor Michael Levitt, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013, had predicted, in the early stages, that the number of coronavirus cases in China will be 80,000. The prediction was very accurate as the actual number of cases is approximately 80,000. Levitt also said that once intervention measures are in place, the spread of the virus is arrested.

Lockdowns seem to be working, and after China, Italy is showing positive results. 

The number of new cases and fatalities in Italy has declined in the past few days. Following this, UK has also announced a three-week lockdown.

Also read: COVID-19 impact in India: A look at the statistics, the science and the reality

Wartime-like efforts to find existing drugs to treat the virus

Nevan Krogan, Director of Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI) & Senior Investigator at the Gladstone Institutes, University of California, argued that a new drug will take many years to get approved, perhaps even a decade. The average time for a drug to get approved by the US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is 12 years and only one out of every 5,000 drugs gets approved. So we should be looking at drugs which are already approved, and at drugs that we know are safe to consume.

The virus latches on to proteins in our cells, and then forces them to make replicas of itself. There can be two ways of dealing with this.

First, you can attack the proteins of the virus to prevent it from reproducing. One of the drugs doing this is remdesivir. This was a drug created to treat the Ebola virus, but it did not get approved and got shelved. However, this drug is showing positive results in treating Covid-19. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that this is the only drug, which has been effective.

The problem with this approach is that the virus may change after some time, and you may need a different drug. 

The second method is to interfere with the proteins in the human cell that interact with the virus. The human cell doesn’t change very quickly. So, if this treatment works, then we will not need to keep changing our treatment.

Dr Krogan has set up a group of 22 Labs called QBI Coronavirus Research Group (QCRG). All these labs are working overtime, seven days a week, to identify the proteins that the virus latches on to and identify which existing drugs can interfere with these proteins. 

They are infecting lab-generated human cells with the virus to determine which proteins the virus is latching onto. The labs were able to identify 332 such proteins. They also found that FDA-approved drugs can affect 66 of these proteins. They found 27 other approved drugs and 42 drugs, which are in advanced stages of clinical trials, that can also affect these proteins.

Watch the full episode of CTC here:

Also read: Coronavirus: Latest updates on cases in India, all you need to know about COVID-19


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  1. Using the blood plasma of a Covid 19 recovered patient for treating Covid 19 cases is a good idea with pursuing . Caution needs to be exercised as the author has pointed out

  2. 1, VENTILATOR JOINT MANUFACTURING ON G20 AGENDA: In Italy, they have been splitting one ventilator among two patients. CBS News reported that New York is experimenting with splitting one ventilator between two patients. Product designer Stephen Gordon has designed a device that allows up to four people to utilize one ventilator at the same time. It was reported in wdsu(dot)com. Reuters reported that Britain has received the first prototypes of new ventilators and production of new machines should start soon. Indian manufacturing industries, Task Force and ICMR may want to get into touch to collaborate and manufacture their designs in India. All nations have low inventory of ventilators. This could be one of the topics for discussion in G20-to pool resources of multiple nations to get the production going.

    2, COVID-19 HANDBOOK OF CHINA: The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation today announced the publication and distribution of a handbook detailing learnings and best practices from the First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, for treating Covid-19 patients. Written by doctors and nurses who were on the front line of the pandemic, the 28-chapter handbook is a comprehensive knowledge-sharing resource for other hospitals facing the coronavirus onslaught. Its aim is to help medical professionals and hospitals worldwide fight the virus. The content of the handbook has been tailored for overseas medical professionals, and an English translation is available for download at covid-19.alibabacloud(dot)com

    3, Government needs to arrange HALF-WAY HOUSES for the front-line workers, including doctors and nurses. That way, they have a place to stay, other than their regular homes, until the disease dies down. This also helps in keeping their loved ones safe from potential infection from the front line workers. China did this for its front-line workers. Task Force and ICMR needs to act on this quickly. Otherwise, India is going to quickly see a depletion of doctors and nurses.

    4, CONVALESCENT PLASMA has been proven “effective and life-saving” against other infectious diseases, including rabies and diphtheria. People who have recently recovered from COVID-19 still have antibodies to the coronavirus circulating in their blood. Injecting those antibodies into sick patients could help patients better fight the infection. In other words, this treatment will transfer the immunity of a recovered patient to a sick patient, an approach that has been used previously in flu pandemics. The blood would be screened to check if he or she had other diseases like hepatitis B or C and infusion needs to be carefully timed. In the absence of treatments or vaccines, this method will give the immune system of front-line responders like doctors, nurses and patients, a boost of antibodies to get them through the difficult phase. It’s being implemented in New York. ICMR and the Task Force needs to get on it.

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