Numerous health organizations have written guidelines on how to prevent getting infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). These guidelines include washing your hands and limiting interaction with others as much as possible. Lately, world governments have adopted these measures, and most are even requiring their citizens to isolate themselves in their homes to further curb the spread of the virus.
Following these health precautions is a start, but it’s not a complete solution. Scientists, however, are working around the clock to develop a cure, prevention technique, or vaccine for COVID-19. We are still far from the point of discovering an effective cure, but there are many experimental techniques in the works which show promise in preventing or curing COVID-19.
One technique is being developed at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle. On March 16, 2020, researchers injected a healthy participant with a COVID-19 vaccine code named mRNA-1237 made by Moderna, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company. The vaccine will be tested on 45 volunteers, who will receive two doses over the course of two months.
Another potential intervention from the labs of Inovio Pharmaceuticals is on its way to be tested in human clinical trials in April. The potential preventive measure is a DNA-based vaccine, still in its experimental stages. Kate Broderick, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Inovio, said in a statement that the company hopes to have 1 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are working on a COVID-19 vaccine as well. A team of scientists led by immunologist Arturo Casadevall are using antibodies from the blood plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19. Casadevall and his team hope the antibodies, when injected into patients, will boost their immune systems and lower their chances of contracting the virus.
The vaccine is not without its risks. Virus antibodies can actually make infections worse. Researchers developing a dengue fever vaccine discovered that antibodies, when used against the fever, increased its mortality rate in patients. But most viruses do not react in this erratic manner, so Casadevall hopes the vaccine he’s developing will be effective.
“Deployment of this option requires no research or development,” he says. “It could be deployed within a couple of weeks since it relies on standard blood-banking practices.”
These new developments are very promising. But all of these potential techniques will take months or even a year before they are released to the public. In the meantime, follow the advice of health organizations and local governments to properly deal with the Coronavirus outbreak.