As of May 3, 2020 Covid-19 has spread to 220 countries around the world with over 3 million confirmed cases and almost 250,000 deaths so far. It is clear that the virus knows no borders, but on the other hand, neither does science. Researchers and scientists from countries around the world are working together to find treatments, testing methods, and possible vaccines to slow the spread of Covid-19. So, what is Canada doing to advance our scientific understanding of the virus?
Health Canada has approved 20 clinical trials for potential treatments and vaccines for Covid-19. Most of these trials are based on already existing drugs used on previous viruses.
7 of these trials are studying the effects of hydroxycloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and rheumatology, with various other complementary drugs such as azithromycin and lopinavir/ritonavir. There are known side effects of this drug, and a trial in Brazil had to be halted early because too many people in the study were dying.
Other promising treatment candidates being studied by Canadian researchers are remdesivir, Lopinavir/Ritonavir, and Interferon beta-1a, previously used to treat other diseases caused by earlier coronaviruses as well as multiple sclerosis.
AbCellera, a Vancouver based research group was recently awarded 175.6 million dollars from the Canadian federal government for its findings of antibodies in blood samples for patients who have already recovered from Covid-19. According to AbCellera:
Since receiving one of the first North American samples from a recovered patient on February 25th, AbCellera has identified over 500 unique human anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies as part of a collaboration with the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the US National Institutes of Health. Antibodies discovered by AbCellera may also be used to create new diagnostic tests to support the medical community in monitoring the spread of COVID-19.https://www.abcellera.com/news/2020-05-03
Canada is also part of the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Clinical Trials for Covid-19 Treatments. Solidarity is a global effort consisting of 83 countries that will compare 4 different treatment options and assess their effectiveness. The drugs being studied are based off laboratory and clinical studies, and new drugs may be included as new evidence emerges.
According to Dr. Srinivas Murthy, co-chair of the WHO’s clinical research committee on COVID-19 from, an effective treatment could come in the coming months, while a vaccine is still likely to be more than a year away. This is important because as Canada continues to work on “flattening the curve” and postpone as many deaths as possible, these treatments could potentially save thousands of lives.