The race to find a coronavirus treatment: One
strategy might be just weeks away, scientists
MILWAUKEE, Wis. – In a week when the coronavirus closures and quarantines hit
like falling dominoes – the lockdown in Italy, the empty workplaces and college
campuses in the U.S., suspended sports seasons, canceled festivals – far less
attention fell on the global scientific community's drive to find treatments for the
But researchers are already suggesting strategies to help patients suffering from
the virus, which is marked by fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. One
treatment could be just weeks away.
With no vaccine expected anytime soon, treatments are crucial to saving the lives
of thousands of the infected, especially high-risk patients – the elderly, those with
compromised immune systems and those with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes,
heart disease and lung disease.
"I'm very hopeful and very positive. We'll get through this," said Robert Kruse, a
doctor in the Department of Pathology at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
"I've been shocked this week at the measures that have been taken (to alter daily
life). They were probably the correct ones, given that they have worked in other
'Time is of the essence'
Kruse has been pursuing two different treatment strategies, one of which has a
long history and could be available within weeks rather than months. The quickest
option is likely to be the use of antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients. As
of Saturday, there were almost 72,000 such patients worldwide. The virus has
infected about 150,000, killing more than 5,500.
The use of survivor antibodies, serum therapy, dates back to 1891 when it was
used successfully to treat a child with diphtheria. Since then, serum from
recovered patients has been used "to stem outbreaks of viral diseases such as
poliomyelitis, measles, mumps and influenza," according to a paper Friday in The
Journal of Clinical Investigation.
"As we are in the midst of a