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Is There a Way to Treat COVID-19 That Doesn't Involve a Vaccine?

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

In my previous piece, I talked about how the COVID-19 vaccines work and encouraged everyone to get vaccinated. Among the criticisms I heard about the piece was that I was pushing some cloak and dagger agenda. Let me assure you, that’s not the case. Let’s say you refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine.  What are your options for treatment if you do get it? The answer goes back more than 100 years and the development of illness-specific medications.

The invention of antibiotics was one of the greatest inventions of all time. Dr. Paul Ehrlich, the man who invented antibiotics in 1907 (and later won a Nobel Prize), found that certain dyes could affect certain types of cells but not others, leading him to question, “Are there chemicals that could treat bacteria in a body by attacking the harmful bacterial cells while leaving healthy cells alone?” The answer to that question was obviously yes.

Since then, antibiotics have been used to treat a myriad of bacterial infections. There are hundreds of types of antibiotics available that are designed to attack certain types of bacterial infections. There are even soaps that are antibacterial.

Yet when it comes to viral infections, antibiotics cease to work. Antiviral medications were developed in the 1950s and 1960s, primarily by Gertrude Elion and Dr. George Hitchings. While Hitchings dove into treatments for cancer, Elion focused more on the development of anti-viral medications, like Aciclovir, which is used to treat herpes. Elion and Hitchings’ research began as a revolutionary idea. Instead of using drugs by trial and error to find effective treatments, they thought that the development of medications that would treat specific diseases was the new direction to go. This, of course, revolutionized the pharmacological industry, encouraging research and development in the search for chemical compounds that would inhibit the growth of the viral infection. Antiviral development also then began to focus on AIDS, which at the time was 100% fatal.

Antiviral medications slow or stop the viral replication process through various means. Sometimes an antiviral medication essentially “attracts” the virus, so that the virus attaches to it and not healthy cells.  Another way they work is by interrupting the reproduction process within the cells, preventing the virus from replicating and spreading the infection. Lastly, some antivirals work by blocking the infected cells from releasing new virions, or a single virus particle.

Today, antivirals continue to be developed to fight various viral infections. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilead Sciences undertook the quest to see if Remdesivir would inhibit the spread of the infection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (as it worked with other viruses). Remdesivir was originally developed for the treatment of Hepatitis C (it didn’t); however, it was explored as an option to treat COVID-19. I think a large part of the problem with the implementation of the use of Remdesivir was that as a result of Trump being treated with it for COVID-19, the left and the press wanted to undermine its effectiveness.  Currently, medical officials still use Remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19. The WHO announced in November 2020 that they had completed a trial of the use of Remdesivir and that they were recommending against its use in the treatment of COVID-19. Regardless, the NIH issued a report stating that Remdesivir shortens recovery time.

While the government told us that COVID-19 is not the flu, other doctors were testing flu treatments for the treatment of COVID-19. Tamiflu, which is normally used to treat the seasonal flu, is currently in trials to see whether or not it is effective against COVID-19. But it couldn’t be that simple, could it?

Actually, yes it can. Antiviral drugs are tailored to treat specific viruses. As seen with Remdesivir, it was created to inhibit the spread of the infection for Hepatitis C. Could a version of Tamiflu be developed to treat a virus such as COVID-19? Not only could it; it already is. Molnupiravir works the same way other antiviral medications work, however, is currently being tested for use in the treatment of COVID-19.

If you remember from the previous pieces in this series, I discussed the way your immune system works and the role of killer T cells, which are trained to destroy the virus and virally infected cells. Another treatment that is being tested is one that has been previously used in treating cancer: T cell transfer. The T cells from a recently recovered patient are extracted in a blood-plasma solution and then injected into the infected patient. The infected patient’s blood then carries these buffed-up T cells to the viral infection, theoretically halting the process of viral replication. Though the process here is a bit different from that with cancer patients, the overall process is the same.

The government, however, in their quest to avoid COVID and flu comparisons, eliminated a great deal of the options for treatment of COVID-19.  Some drugs, like Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), have been pooh-poohed by some medical professionals because they believed there was no connection between its use and the reduced COVID infection rates, despite some doctors finding success. When it was pointed out the African countries, which use HCQ to treat and prevent Malaria, have some of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates, officials quickly stated that the two are unrelated. That could be true.

You’d have expected COVID-19 to tear through Africa like a wildfire, but it didn’t.  Stay tuned for the next piece on that.

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 3 in a series exploring the COVID-19 virus, treatments, and vaccines. Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.)