Can you cure a 2019-nCoV coronavirus infection?

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A Franceinfo reader asked the question in the comments of our live. The answer is yes. This is even the case for the vast majority of infected patients. Explanations.

Infected with 2019-nCoV, Wang Youxin came close to death. After spending 20 days in the intensive care unit at Wuhan hospital, the 62-year-old Chinese man was finally able to return home safely on January 29. This sixties was the first confirmed case of healing in the country. Since then, thousands of compatriots have cured the disease. Something to reassure some: in the comments of our live, one of you worried about whether it was possible to cure this new coronavirus.

The answer is yes: we cure the new coronavirus, as we cure many infectious respiratory diseases. To date, more than 37,000 cases have been confirmed in China, according to this real-time assessment drawn up by an American team. A total of 811 patients died from the infection and the number of people cured is now 2,723. On February 4, the Chinese government announced that 892 patients had been discharged from hospital – a figure that Franceinfo does not is not able to verify.

Healings are even the vast majority of cases. The lethality rate of the new coronavirus is now estimated at around 2-2.2%, compared to 4% or 5% at the start of the epidemic. “The means of diagnosis are progressing, which has the effect of increasing the number of confirmed cases, explains to franceinfo Philippe Brouqui, from the IHU (Institut hospitalo-universitaire) Méditerranée Infection de Marseille. It is therefore likely that the mortality rate will decrease further, as more and more cases are discovered “. The number of patients cured should therefore rapidly increase in the coming weeks.

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In France, the six cases confirmed to date have been automatically hospitalized and placed in isolation. “The management is similar to other infections of this type, with symptomatic treatments to rehydrate the patients and bring down their temperature”. In case of bacterial superinfection, which can happen with this type of virus disease, antibiotic treatment can also be administered. It is also possible to provide patients with additional oxygen.

The infection can be responsible for pneumonia and severe cases may require intensive care, in order to control the vital functions and to allow the patient to pass the course of the disease. It should be added that certain profiles are at higher risk than others, such as the elderly or suffering from diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or coronary artery disease.

Either way, management simply attempts to alleviate the symptoms and cannot head on with the virus. “As with all respiratory diseases except influenza, there is no specific antiviral treatment for 2019-nCoV”, recalls Philippe Brouqui. “The only recent information is that the Chinese are testing a large number of molecules, some of which are known to be active and not specific.”

The National Health Commission of China has undoubtedly gone a little too quickly in declaring that an anti-HIV drug combining two molecules – lopinavir and ritonavir – could be used for patients with 2019-nCoV. For the moment, in fact, these words are not based on any scientific publication. Admittedly, the Clinical Trials site lists several Chinese studies in progress to test the effectiveness of these molecules and fight infection, but their results are not yet known. Asked about this point, the WHO called for caution:

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There is no known effective therapy against this 2019-nCoV.Tarik Jasarevic, spokesperson for the World Health Organizationat the Reuters agency

In addition, other researchers are examining the combined use of this antiretroviral drug and interferon, a combination used on the Mers coronavirus in an ongoing clinical trial. Another option also exploits the track of an antiviral that has been used in the past for Ebola. The authors of this study published in the prestigious journal Nature find the track encouraging, but further tests have yet to be conducted.

If an antiviral drug is put on the market, the cure rate could soar. Such treatment would also make it possible to effectively contain the epidemic, because today, the authorities must above all be satisfied with non-health responses, such as quarantines. Outside of China, many teams are therefore at work to find a therapeutic solution, for example at the Pasteur Institute in Paris or at the Rega Institute in Louvain (Belgium).

To be effective, an antiviral can for example inhibit the enzymes necessary for the virus to duplicate (protease for HIV, neuraminidase for influenza, etc.). It is therefore useless to waste time with the various remedies mentioned on social networks (fennel, whiskey and honey, homeopathy …). Their use in no way makes it possible to counter the replication of 2019-nCoV in cells.

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