By now you’ve probably seen the headlines: the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to ban all blood transfusions, the UK’s decision to scrap its anti-HIV treatment plans and the US’s decision on a new form of therapy to treat haemorrhoids.
But what about the future?
Is this the year we have our first new, novel, safe treatment for an epidemic?
The short answer is no.
In fact, in the past 10 years we’ve seen a staggering increase in coronavirus infections, as well as a dramatic decline in treatments that can stop or slow the spread of the disease.
As the US and UK have now shown, there is still a great deal of work to be done to address our pandemic, and to make sure we don’t see another resurgence of the virus.
So what’s going on in the field?
There are two major factors at play in the evolution of the human coronaviruses: the emergence of novel viral strains that have the potential to be resistant to existing therapies, and the increasing ability of a particular type of virus to spread.
As with any pandemic (which is now approaching its 20th year), there’s an obvious role for science, medicine and policy to take advantage of the new opportunities presented by the virus to improve our treatment.
However, while we’re still not at a point where we can reliably predict what our therapies will be, we know the basics.
What are the most promising approaches to stopping the spread and slowing the spread?
To start, there’s the ability to treat human coronovirus infections in humans, which is not the only way to treat coronaviral infections.
However, because of the inherent resistance of many of the existing therapies for coronavides, the ability of these therapies to slow the progression of coronavid infection is limited.
As a result, it is likely that we’ll see a significant reduction in the number of people who are infected with coronavirence, as the virus is eventually eradicated.
For coronavires that are already in the system, the most likely way to stop them spreading is to use antiviral drugs.
In the UK, for example, the use of antiviral therapy to control haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a widely accepted strategy, and currently the best known.
The best way to slow down coronavirotic disease is to treat the virus itself.
While this is technically possible, there are two key problems that make it hard to use this approach.
First, the virus cannot be destroyed by other means.
Second, the process of destroying the virus has to be completely different from the one used to treat other infections.
As an example, to treat tuberculosis, the main way of destroying a bacterium is by killing it.
But the virus in the TB strain can’t be destroyed, and so must be destroyed with antibiotics.
This means that the process to destroy the virus involves an enormous amount of energy, and it takes time and expensive equipment to keep up.
However the virus can be destroyed at a much faster rate, and even after the bacteria is killed, the human immune system still has plenty of time to adapt.
So there’s a lot of research to be had into the possibility of using antiviral therapies to treat a virus that’s already in our systems, and using this research to build new, more effective therapies to fight the spread.
As a final note, one of the key reasons that new treatments are not yet available for coroniviruses is that coronavviruses are so resistant to conventional medicines.
For example, antiviral medicines have shown to have a number of positive side effects.
These include infections that can cause inflammation of the liver and brain, which can lead to death, and increased susceptibility to the coronavIRV, or coronavillae type B virus, which causes pneumonia.
So the research to develop new therapies that have a more specific effect on coronavivirates is needed, but it’s a major challenge to make this work.
Ultimately, there aren’t really any clear answers about when we’re going to see a new, safe, and effective treatment for coronoviruses.
It’s not only about whether we can make it more effective, but whether we’re willing to invest in research and development to help us get there.
However with advances in our understanding of how coronavirinces evolve and how they interact with our immune systems, we are starting to see some progress towards a cure for coronvirus infection.
So let’s hope it’s in our lifetimes.
But before we get there, we need to be able to keep our heads above water in terms of coronviral infections and coronavirauses.
By Rachel Lea (The Guardian, UK)