It’s early 2020 and Coronavirus has been officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is an airborne virus whose symptoms can range from non-existent to life-threatening.
This pandemic has caused widespread panic – especially considering there’s currently no single cure for those infected with the virus.
Fortunately, treatment options are in rapid development and research is yielding some promising results. We’re going to take a look at the fascinating Coronavirus treatment options that are on the horizon but not yet proven.
But before we can understand exactly how we can potentially treat Coronavirus, we have to take a look at exactly how this virus exerts its effects on the human body.
How Does Coronavirus Affect the Body?
The Coronavirus primarily impacts the lower respiratory tract and its main symptoms are:1
- Shortness of breath
In mild cases, the virus will run its course and resolve on its own. But if the Coronavirus infection progresses to a critical level, it causes pneumonia and uncontrolled inflammation which results in:2
- Severe swelling and accumulation of fluid in the lungs
- Damage to the membranes where gas is exchanged in your lungs (the alveolar-capillary barrier)
- Oxidative injury to the tissues in your lungs (injury to lung tissues caused by not enough available oxygen)
This combination halts your body’s ability to properly transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and can continue to spiral into what is known as acute respiratory distress syndrome. Once in acute respiratory distress, the lungs are unable to get enough air to the rest of the body – depriving vital organs of the oxygen they need to function.
This life-threatening situation is caused by a specific cascade of events that happens when your immune system goes into overdrive.
Coronavirus and the Immune Response
If you become infected, the Coronavirus attaches to receptors on the cells in your lungs, spleen, and lymphatic system. Once alerted to this viral invasion, your body launches an immune response – deploying immune cells and activating your inflammasomes. Inflammasomes signal your body to begin releasing a cascade of pro-inflammatory chemical messengers.3
Among these chemical messengers are cytokines, a class of small proteins that play a crucial role in immune system activation and communication. In a normal immune response, an appropriate level of cytokines are secreted to neutralize invaders, then the body’s balance is restored.
But in an exaggerated response, a large amount of cytokines are secreted too quickly. This causes what is known as a “cytokine storm”. This overproduction and flooding of cytokines and immune cells in the lung tissues in response to Coronavirus is what causes the massive inflammation that is so damaging.
What Is the Treatment for Coronavirus?
For mild cases, treatment primarily focuses on supportive measures such as:
- Bed rest
- Maintaining adequate hydration and nutrition
- Monitoring of vital signs and oxygen saturation
- Analysis of blood panels and biochemistry labs (liver enzymes, cardiac function, etc.)
- Administration of oxygen if needed
In susceptible individuals who contract a more serious case of Coronavirus and deteriorate into acute respiratory syndrome, intubation and mechanical ventilation (being hooked up to a breathing machine) may be necessary.
Currently, researchers across the globe are racing to identify effective treatment options to beat this virus. Let’s take a closer look at the most prominent treatment options emerging right now.
Melatonin and the Coronavirus
Melatonin is a well known biological agent that influences many bodily functions. Melatonin is best known for its role in circadian rhythms and is used as a popular sleep aid. But research is finding that melatonin may have far more widespread applications.
Melatonin has been found to inhibit the action of an inflammasome known as NLRP3 – one of the primary inflammasomes involved in the exaggerated immune response seen in critical Coronavirus cases.
Melatonin’s ability to suppress the activation of NLRP3 has been found to:4
- Counteract severe inflammatory responses
- Lower production of proinflammatory cytokines
- Lower infiltration of immune cells into lungs
- Reduce lung tissue injury
Melatonin’s role in suppressing the inflammatory response is likely one of the reasons children under the age of 9 rarely present with severe symptoms when infected with Coronavirus. This is because young children can have up to 10 times the peak melatonin levels of older adults.
The cells in the lining of your lungs contain cellular receptors known as ACE-2 receptors. When the Coronavirus enters the body, it uses these ACE-2 receptors to attach to and enter your cells. It then begins replicating and spreading.5
Because of this, some research is focusing on the use of angiotensin-receptor blockers – a class of compounds that block ACE-2 receptor sites in the treatment of Coronavirus.
This is intended to halt – or at the very least slow down – the virus’s ability to attach and enter the body.6 While prescription angiotensin blockers include drugs like Cozaar or Diovan, there are some natural compounds that exert angiotensin-receptor blocking effects such as:7
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Coenzyme Q10
- Gamma linoleic acid/dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid
The use of angiotensin-receptor blockers in the treatment of Coronavirus is still in the very early stages and will require significantly more research to reveal it’s true efficacy. Patients who are taking ACE inhibitors should discuss with their physician whether or not it is safe to remain on the drug if they contract Coronavirus.
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C has long been known to boost immune function, but early studies are finding that high dose vitamin C might actually be able to reverse the effects of the Coronavirus.
High doses of vitamin C is speculated to mitigate the massive inflammation and subsequent respiratory failure seen in Coronavirus infection by:8,9
- Suppressing inflammatory response in the lungs
- Preventing the accumulation of immune cells in the lungs
- Minimizing the release of cytokines
- Supporting immune system
Passive Antibody Therapy
Once your body is exposed to a viral infection, you develop antibodies designed to recognize, target, and eliminate that specific virus. This is your immune system’s way of adapting in order to more quickly and effectively neutralize any foreign invaders.
For example, if someone is exposed to the Coronavirus and their immune system is able to resolve the infection, they will have developed antibodies specifically against that strain of Coronavirus.
One proposed method of treatment is to essentially harvest these antibodies from individuals who have developed the antibodies specific to Coronavirus. By collecting plasma from patients with resolved cases of Coronavirus, and then transfusing it into infected patients, these antibodies will be passed on to the infected patient.10,11
In general, when used in other infectious diseases, passive antibody therapy has been found to be more effective when used for prevention rather than treatment.12 But researchers are hopeful that passive antibody therapy could be relevant in the treatment of Coronavirus by minimizing symptoms and giving infected patients’ immune systems a boost in fighting off the virus.
A number of broad-spectrum medications have been considered in the treatment of the virus. These drugs may work by interfering with the pathways required for the Coronavirus to replicate. While traditionally used for treatment of malaria and other parasites they have broad-spectrum activity.
So far, research has found the following antimalarials/antiprotozoal medications appears to be the most promising in patients who are infected. We must await further research before coming to conclusions about their effectiveness:13,14,15,16
While only time and further research will give us a definitive answer, these drugs appear to hold some promise in future Coronavirus treatment.
Protecting Yourself From the Coronavirus
While the hysteria surrounding media coverage of this pandemic can feel scary and overwhelming, I encourage you not to panic. Some of the world’s best minds are hard at work making promising strides towards creating effective treatments for Coronavirus.
I’m a firm believer that when it comes to your health, you are your own best advocate. And when it comes to the Coronavirus, there are some simple and effective ways you can protect yourself and your loved ones – such as:
- Taking extra precautions to avoid the spread of germs
- Frequent hand-washing
- Keeping your environment clean
- Following the CDC’s recommendations regarding social distancing
For my best tips on protecting yourself from Coronavirus, I urge you to head over and read my article Worried About Coronavirus? What You Need To Know To Protect Yourself and educate yourself on how you can safeguard yourself and your loved ones. And in the coming weeks I will be giving you all of my best information to keep you as safe and healthy as possible in these challenging times.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to hear about some of the emerging treatments for Coronavirus? What steps are you taking to protect yourself and your loved ones? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease state or medical condition and has not been evaluated by the <a href="https://www.fda.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FDA</a>. This is not intended to replace any recommendations by or relationship with your physician. The references included in each article allude to the level of scientific rigor I have applied to my writing. When changes become apparent we will update the information if appropriate.