5 COVID-19 treatment contenders & how they work

With only one modestly effective COVID-19 treatment known, the world is scrambling to develop better therapies. Luckily, there are five strong contenders, as reported by NPR. 

Currently, the antiviral drug remdesivir is the only treatment proven effective when given to COVID-19 patients. However, the drug, developed by Gilead, is only modestly effective. 

Below are five COVID-19 therapies that show promise:

Convalescent plasma

1. Researchers are expecting to see beneficial results when plasma is taken from recovered COVID-19 patients and given to current patients. The idea is that the antibodies in the recovered patient's blood will help fight the current patient's infection. Though its benefit has not yet been proven, Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic is leading one effort to expand the practice, while East Lansing-based Michigan State University leads another. If effective, the plasma could be used to prevent infection in medical workers and other high-risk individuals.

Antivirals

2. Antiviral drugs can block a virus's ability to make copies of itself and spread through someone's body. EIDD-2801 is a new antiviral drug that has reduced the symptoms of SARS in animal studies. Last month, pharmaceutical giant Merck signed an agreement with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop EIDD-2801, which is now being tested in human trials in the United Kingdom.  

Monoclonal antibodies

3. These lab-made molecules can mimic the human immune system's antibodies. They can be used to target cells infected with viruses and have been used to successfully treat a wide range of diseases, from cancer to rheumatoid arthritis. The first to begin studies in humans is developed by Canadian biotech company AbCellera and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.

4. A second drug, made by pharmaceutical company Regeneron, is actually a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies and began trials in humans June 11. In a forthcoming paper in Science, company scientists show the cocktail approach can reduce the chance the virus will develop resistance to the drug.  

Immune modulators

5. Inflammation in the case of COVID-19 can damage the lungs and make it hard for a patient to breathe. There are a variety of drugs already on the market that are used to reduce inflammation, and several are being tested on COVID-19 patients. However, immune modulators suppress the immune system, so they may reduce someone's ability to fight off the virus.

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