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Discussing Therapeutic Options for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Mar 24, 2020 10:04:00 AM / by Stacy Matthews Branch, DVM, PhD

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While the world waits for a coronavirus vaccine, scientists are looking to viral and cell therapy treatments for a solution.

Since China began reporting COVID-19 cases to the World Health Organization (WHO), the novel virus has since spread globally. With the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, announcements about efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine are ongoing and constant.

However, it could be quite some time before a safe and effective vaccine is available. Meantime, there is a need for a treatment that can halt the progression of the disease and prevent mortality.

Currently, there is no drug or vaccine approved to treat coronavirus infection in humans. A number of research efforts to develop an effective treatment for patients with coronavirus infection focus on repurposing already existing antiviral drugs. Examples are drugs that are nucleoside analogues (e.g., favipiravir and remdesivir) that target viral RNA polymerase of viruses, including the coronavirus.

In addition to the virus-directed therapeutic approach, host-directed approaches using cell therapy are receiving attention. Human coronaviruses cause over-the-top immune responses that are only harmful to the host. This abnormal immune response leads to the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in some patients with COVID-19, and a massive increase of various cytokines can also occur in very ill patients. The pathology associated with ARDS can lead to death or chronic illness with a lowered quality of life among survivors.

Cell therapy clinical trials in patients with ARDS are currently underway. One such cell therapy approach being studied is the use of allogenic mesenchymal stromal cells. Data from studies using this approach have shown a reduction of non-productive abnormal inflammatory reactions and the promotion of tissue regeneration.

Due to the already known benefit of antiviral T cells after autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation for patients with cytomegalovirus infection, this approach may represent a viable adjunct in patients with COVID-19.

Scientists are vigorously studying and developing approaches to treat coronavirus infections and significantly reduce the risk of mortality.

HemaCare supports those working globally to end life-threatening diseases. Learn more about how our products are helping advance cell therapy research.


Li, G., & De Clercq, E. (2020). Therapeutic options for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. doi:10.1038/d41573-020-00016-0

Zumla, A., Hui, D., Azhar, E., Memish, Z., & Maeurer, M. (2020). Reducing mortality from 2019-nCoV: host-directed therapies should be an option. The Lancet, 395(10224), e35-e36. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(20)30305-6

Topics: T Cells, Vaccine Research, Immunotherapy (Immunology)

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