COVID-19 Treatment: Efforts of Nigerian medics, by Prof M.K Othman

Professor M. K. Othman.
Professor M.K. Othman.


Is COVID-19 a treatable disease? Yes, but yet to be curable and the search for a treatment that can make COVID-19 curable is the most herculean task yet to be accomplished. So, there is no specific treatment for disease caused by a novel coronavirus.

However, many of the symptoms can be treated and therefore treatment based on the patient’s clinical condition. Moreover, supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective.

In the meantime, scientists are working round the clock to develop effective treatments. Many therapies are under investigation, which includes drugs that have been used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases; antiviral drugs that were developed for other viruses, and antibodies from people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection. This is why preventive measures are strongly being promoted globally.

COVID-19 is a tiny virus and invisible to the naked eyes. In the last five months, the virus has almost brought the world to her knees, ravaging her human content, devastating the global economy and well-being of the citizenry in over 200 countries across the continents and islands.

COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019, a disease caused by an infection with SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), It is a novel virus, zoonic, which develops from an animal before transmitting to humans.

This virus has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. As at the 8th day of September 2020, the world lost a total of 893,084 people to COVID-19. The highest fatality figure of 189,208 people was recorded in the USA, followed by Brazil with 126,960 people and India with 72,775 people.

The share of the African continent of the fatality figure was 31,497 people including the Nigerian figure of 1,061 casualties.  Unfortunately, the counting continues until our efforts to find the remedy are achieved.

Prayerfully, it would be sooner than later. Although, this fatality is less than what the world lost from some diseases yearly. Example, heart disease and stroke accounted for a combined 15.2 million deaths globally in 2016 (WHO, 2016), cancers caused 9.56 million deaths and even digestive diseases caused 2.38 million deaths in 2017.

However, COVID-19 is not only claiming lives but devastating the global economy, restricting movement and freezing right to freedom of movement. There were panic, anxiety and uncertainty across the globe.

Borders, schools, offices were promptly shut, domestic, international flights and road transports grounded, and we were all seem to be afraid of each other to avoid infection of dreaded COVID-19. The loss in a monetary term is incalculable and may need a concerted effort to provide a reasonable estimate. How did we arrive at this disturbing situation?

The outbreak was first identified and reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, the People Republic of China. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and then finally declared it a Pandemic on 11th March 2020.

In the last two decades before the pandemic, the world witnessed two major Coronavirus endemics; Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and SARS 1, the so-called “Swine Flu”. MERS and SARS 1 were equally deadly, but not easily spread compared to COVID-19.

Between late 2002 and 2003, an emerging pathogen from an animal was noticed to be infectious to human beings and causing severe respiratory illness in China. It was reported to be the severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV).

From China, it spread over 26 other countries, infecting at least 8,098 people and killing at least 774. A virus similar to the one that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 caused SARS, but its impact is monumental and incomparable to SARS Virus.

This is in spite of having a relatively high case of fatality rate of 9.6 per cent, compared to the current estimate of 1.4 per cent for COVID-19.

Infections, deaths and recoveries are stack reality of COVID-19 Pandemic facing the world. Unfortunately, we continue to record new cases on a daily basis in spite of our strenuous efforts individually and collectively to flatten the trajectory and end the infection.

Prayerfully, sooner than later, the efforts will pay up. Now, what are the efforts to treat and eliminate COVID-19 and remove it from our catalogue of worries?

“No cure for COVID-19” has been the general perception of the world especially the advanced countries. Thus, efforts are geared towards developing vaccination to prevent COVID-19 infection.

There is a large global effort to develop vaccines for protection against COVID-19 and as of 31 July 2020, at least 19 vaccine candidates were admitted for clinical trials, which included phase 2 and 3 trials.

Healthy adults aged 18–55 years with no history of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection or COVID-19-like symptoms were randomly assigned to receive a trial dose of 5×1010 viral particles as a single intramuscular injection.

Neutralizing antibody responses against COVID-19 were detected in 32 (91%) of the 35 participants after a single dose. After a booster dose, all participants had neutralizing activity.

This means that antibody against COVID-19was developed by the trial participants after a second/booster dose indicating 100% success of the vaccine. The trial is continuous until it is perfected for public vaccination, which may take many months to achieve.

The vaccines development and trials involved many countries with their scientists spending sleepless nights to achieve success.

Meanwhile, the medics in Nigeria are not left behind in all aspects of Covid-19 treatments. What are their efforts? To be next week.

Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.


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