Are there any treatment options for the novel coronavirus?

Are there any treatment options for the novel coronavirus?

The new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is rapidly spreading around the globe killing thousands of people. This new virus is very contagious, and the outbreak has been declared a global pandemic by WHO. There is an urgent need to find a treatment for COVID-19. We identified one existing drug that can be used as an adjuvant therapy to treat coronavirus-related pneumonia. Repurposing other existing drugs to treat COVID-19 is a highly promising strategy. We have also identified biomarkers based on our innovative approach that potentially might be used develop a diagnostic tool to predict the survivorship of COVID-19 pneumonia patients.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has sparked a global alarm. An exponential rise in confirmed cases is now being constantly recorded outside of China, where the virus was first detected in Wuhan in December 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a pandemic, and countries around the world are mobilising efforts to tackle the new coronavirus that has killed already thousands. As of March 22, more than 311,000 people have been tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 13,000 people worldwide have died.

Coronavirus causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome. The novel coronavirus is a new strain, and little is known about it. At the moment, there is no treatment for COVID-19. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses, and treatment is directed at relieving symptoms. The virus attacks all of the lungs, instead of just small parts, and around 15% of COVID-19 patients become critically ill featuring pneumonia, difficulty breathing, or even respiratory failure, and require artificial ventilation in intensive care units (ICUs) until their lungs are able to function.

Treatments for coronavirus are desperately needed. Scientists are racing to develop a vaccine but it won’t be available soon enough, and around 70 drugs and compounds are currently being investigated as a treatment for coronavirus.

Traditionally, drug development is focused on specific proteins and enzymes, which either mutated or mis-regulated. However, we suggest that the gene ensemble noise can be used to discover new targets for coronavirus treatment. We found out that in severe pneumonia patients with low survival prognosis, the gene function of mitochondrial respiration is significantly compromised, which can be a potential treatment target for COVID-19. Thus, the pneumonia symptoms of the COVID-19 disease can be alleviated by using drugs that improve mitochondrial respiration, such as Methylene Blue. It won’t treat viral infection on itself but it might act as an adjuvant therapy.

There are other drugs that might be considered for COVID-19 treatment. Repurposing them to treat the novel virus will be a much faster way to tackle the outbreak instead of creating a new drug that may take years to develop and test.

In addition, in case of limited resources, prioritising the patients to be attended may one day become a reality. We propose the machine learning diagnostic models to predict who of COVID-19 pneumonia patients have better chances of survival. Our gene ensemble gene noise model is able to predict mortality outcome for bacterial pneumonia patients with high accuracy. Thus, our model can be used to а) discover new druggable targets and b) to develop faster and cheaper PCR diagnostic assays compared to more expensive and slower genome-wide assays.

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