Search for solution to global pandemic begins

With over 393, 284 cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) recorded globally and  7, 161 deaths, Nigeria joins the world community to search for treatment for the disease, APPOLONIA ADEYEMI reports


In almost five weeks after Nigeria recorded the first coronavirus (COVID-9) index case, the number of people that have tested positive for the disease in the country has reached 42, a situation that has raised the concerns of the larger populace. Over 393, 284 cases of the COVID-19 have been recorded worldwide while 7, 161 people have died from the pandemic. Based on this background, the big question on everyone’s mind is: When will this nightmare end? Sadly, information from the World Health organisation (WHO) has dimmed hope of a quick end to the global health crises.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, the senior adviser to the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has predicted that the world should be emerging from the current crisis six months from now but with evidence of the disease still in many parts of the world.

Aylward who has almost three decades of experience dealing with communicable diseases such as polio and Ebola, is in the forefront of fighting the current pandemic.

With the record deaths from COVID-19, the world community has consequently shifted focus on getting medications that could tackle the disease.

As the world’s heath experts raced to find treatments for COVID-9, two drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are being considered. In Nigeria, the Director General of the Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye , said, “some studies, which showed the efficacy of Chloroquine were done in China and at the University of Minnesota and both showed prospect to tackle COVID-19, though the trials are still ongoing.”

She said, “What they (researchers) have done is to show that Chloroquine is superior to the placebo and it’s what we read about the medicine from the trial that we can quote.”

She reasoned that based on the findings of the trials so far, chloroquine could be used for Coronavirus, but it must be on the prescription of medical personnel. However, both NAFDAC and the Ministry of Health in Lagos have affirmed that chloroquine would be subjected to clinical trials in the country first to determine its efficacy before it would be recommended for wider use.

Highlighting the benefits of chloroquine, Adeyeye said, “the drug prevents coronavirus from replicating (multiplying); it also prevents the binding of the virus to receptors. That is to say it prevents the attachment of the virus to receptors.”

Apart from these anti-viral activities, chloroquine also supports pro-inflammatory cytokines, meaning that it hinders inflammation. However, Adeyeye noted that all these activities are activities of chloroquine as observed in the laboratory, which cannot be relied on until it is subjected to clinical trials.

Beyond the proposed chloroquine clinical trials, a biotech company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts early this week announced that the first batch of Coronavirus vaccine for human testing was expected to commence as early as April, has been shipped.

This development was made 42 days after Chinese scientists released the genetic sequence of the virus that’s now called SARs-CoV-2.

“The first vial of cure was reportedly sent to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland,” ‘the Life Times’ reported.

This institution will prepare the vaccine and conduct testing on human volunteers by April.

The report also said that scientists at the United States (US) National Institute of Health (NIH), will be testing two viruses simultaneously. Experts added that they have been already testing an anti-viral drug called “remdesivir” for patients with Ebola. The remdesivir vaccine has been injected to a SARs-CoV-2 patient. This trial was the first drug to be tested in treating COVID-19.

In a related development, industry chiefs and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations pharmaceutical industry (IFPMA), expected that it would take 12 to 18 months to roll out a coronavirus vaccine.

They made these known last Thursday, as they jointly pledged to make it available worldwide based on need.

Bureaucracy could be slashed to speed up the process—but the time needed for safety testing could not be compromised, the industry chiefs told a virtual press conference hosted in Geneva.

“We’re confident technology will arrest this disease,” said IFPMA president David Ricks, the chairman of Eli Lilly and Company.

On his part, the Executive Vice President of Sanofi Pasteur, David Loew said, “When you think about how many people we will want to vaccinate—once we have a vaccine—around the world, we’re talking billions, and that’s a huge challenge.

“We need to ensure the safety. It’s going to take 12 to 18 months until you have a registered vaccine on the market,” he added. Meanwhile, takeholders are not focusing on orthodox medicines only in the search for Coronavirus treatment, traditional medicine experts have not been left out in the activities to curb the infection.

On his part, a renowned Scientist and Professor of Pharmacognosy, Professor Maurice M. Iwu, in a recent interview with Pharmanews, said his plant-based medicine for the treatment of COVID-19, could be made available for use within the next few weeks, without compromising safety or regulatory requirements.

Iwu who is the Chief Executive Officer of Bioresources Development Group, said the plant-based treatment has lead compounds and chemically characterised fractions that have been active against more deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and other lesser known viruses and has shown promise against COVID-19.

Iwu further stated that in a bid to expedite the availability of the revolutionary medicine for patients in Nigeria, he had met the three concerned ministers in Health, Science and Technology, to work out modalities for the product to be ready in a few weeks.

However, he said $2m was required for large scale production of the plant.

According to Iwu, the compound was found active against the more deadly SARS-coronavirus and other lesser known viruses. “So far, it has been found active against four clinically important viruses,” he added.

Furthermore, he said, luckily, the lead compound (BION -3) is one of the most studied natural products in history with a remarkable high safety profile. “There are published reports on its pharmacokinetics profile and the putative mechanism of action are being reviewed.”

Iwu said, “We intend to follow a dual track of developing an active pharmaceutical ingredient with all the phased clinical trials, and a phytomedicine, which will be a combination product formulation containing the three agents (Rhygyfyn) contained in our patents.”

The Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) in a statement signed last week by its President, Dr. O.C Ogbonna and General Secretary, Comrade Martin Adekunle Egbanubi, said it has commissioned its members in various fields, especially pharmacy and medical laboratory science to commence research on (neem) leaves known locally as ‘Dogonyaro,’ its bark as well as other indigenous local herbs and roots aimed at finding natural cure for COVID-19.

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