Drug used for Ebola may be effective in stopping Covid-19 replication: ICMR

Topics Coronavirus | Ebola | WHO

WHO on Monday said that the SARS-CoV2 is at least 10 times deadlier than the Swine Flu virus
The antiviral drug, Remdesivir, which was used during Ebola outbreak may be highly effective in stopping the replication mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19, the Indian Council of Medical Research said on Monday.

The ICMR said research on its efficacy in the treatment of Covid-19 is a part of WHO's "Solidarity Trial".

According to a recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine, two out of three critically ill coronavirus infected patients who were on oxygen support or on ventilators showed signs of improvement when they were administered remdesivir.

Commenting on the study, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable diseases at ICMR Raman R Gangakhedkar said that drug which was used against Ebola virus hinders the reproduction of coronavirus which is why they believe that it could be effective in Covid-19 treatment.

"Recently reported study on use of remdesivir for Covid-19 treatment is not a clinical trial, but an observational study which found that 68 per cent or two out of three patients after treatment with the drug did not require ventilator support or their need for oxygen support reduced. We will come to know of further developments through the WHO Solidarity Trial, which has an arm which is looking into this," he said.

He further said that remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc, is not presently available in the country and the government is working on to see if any pharmaceutical company can manufacture it.

The research institute also said there can be a possibility of transmission of Covid-19 from a pregnant mother to the newborn, however, the proportion of pregnancies affected and the significance to the newborn is yet to be determined.

The country's top medical research body said that the available scientific evidence suggests that transmission of the virus can happen to a baby before the birth, while it is in the mother's womb, or during delivery from an infected pregnant mother. It added that at present, there are no recorded cases of breast milk being tested positive for Covid-19.

Issuing guidance for management of pregnant women during the Covid-19 pandemic, ICMR said, "There are reports of Covid-19 pneumonia in pregnancy which are milder and have good recovery. Also, there are case reports of pre-term birth in women with Covid-19, but it is unclear whether the pre-term birth was always iatrogenic, or whether some were spontaneous."

"With regard to vertical transmission (transmission from mother to baby antenatally or intrapartum), emerging evidence now suggests that vertical transmission is probable, although the proportion of pregnancies affected and the significance to the neonate has yet to be determined."

"It is unknown whether newborns with Covid-19 are at increased risk for severe complications. Transmission after birth via contact with infectious respiratory secretions is a concern. Facilities should consider temporarily separating (e.g. separate rooms) the mother who have confirmed Covid-19 from the baby until the mother's transmission-based precautions are discontinued."

Meanwhile, in first such bold admission, WHO on Monday said that the SARS-CoV2 is at least 10 times deadlier than the Swine Flu virus.

In a virtual media briefing from Geneva, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned the governments not to lose control over lockdowns and take strict measures to flatten the Covid-19 curve.

"We know that Covid-19 spreads fast, and we know that it is deadly, 10 times more deadly than the 2009 flu pandemic," the WHO chief stressed.

The 2009 Swine Flu pandemic was an influenza pandemic that lasted from January 2009 to August 2010, and the second of the two pandemics involving the H1N1 influenza virus, albeit a new strain. It killed 18,036 people besides infecting 6,04,446 others globally.

"This pandemic is much more than a health crisis," said the WHO chief.

The death toll due to coronavirus rose to 324 and the number of cases in the country climbed to 9,352 on Monday, according to the Union Health Ministry.

However, a PTI tally of figures reported by various states as on Monday evening showed at least 9,975 cases and 346 deaths.

There has been a lag in the Union Health Ministry figures, compared to the number of cases announced by different states, which officials attribute to procedural delays in assigning the cases to individual states.

WHO does not recommend BCG vaccination for Covid-19

WHO on Monday played down studies suggesting that the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine may be effective in the prevention of the highly contagious coronavirus infection.

BCG vaccination prevents severe forms of tuberculosis in children and diversion of local supplies may result in neonates not being vaccinated, resulting in an increase of disease and deaths from tuberculosis.

In its daily situation report, the WHO said there is no evidence that the BCG vaccine protects people against Covid-19.

"There is experimental evidence from both animal and human studies that the BCG vaccine has non-specific effects on the immune system. These effects have not been well characterized and their clinical relevance is unknown," the report said.



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