NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Treatments for People with Early Covid-19 Infection Is Urgent Research Focus

Micrograph of an apoptotic cell (tan) heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (orange),
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (tan) heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (orange), isolated from a patient sample

Covid-19 treatments for people with early infection are needed urgently, according to a JAMA Viewpoint article by NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci and colleagues. Treating people early in the course of infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, would speed their recovery, reduce the likelihood that they develop severe outcomes and reduce demand on the health care system, they write.

Despite experiencing only mild symptoms early in infection, many Covid-19 patients progress to severe disease that leads to hospitalization. Some also will experience lengthy recoveries and develop long-lasting fatigue, mental impairment and problems with heart and lung function.

While several treatments such as remdesivir and dexamethasone are either available or in development for severe Covid-19, interventions that can be administered early during the course of infection to prevent disease progression and longer-term complications are urgently needed.

Studies are underway to assess whether existing antivirals can be repurposed for early treatment. Scientists also are exploring the effectiveness of early treatment with therapies that specifically target SARS-CoV-2, such as convalescent plasma and monoclonal antibodies. Investigators also are exploring strategies to deliver therapies by alternative routes other than by intravenous infusion, such as by inhalation or intramuscular injection.

Continued research is needed to refine current treatment candidates and develop new drugs, and treatments will need to be administered easily and made available widely at low cost, according to the authors.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)