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PH in worldwide search for COVID-19 cure



THERE is still no known cure for the COVID-19 virus which continues to infect millions of people around the world. Six months after the virus emerged in China in December, 2019, over 11 million people have now caught the virus, of which over 533,000 have died as of early this week.

In the absence of any cure or any vaccine, health officials around the world have concentrated on ways to prevent infections and they have come up with social distancing – keeping one to two meters from another person, wearing face masks, and constant hand washing and liberal use of alcohol.

But the search and tests continue for cures to heal the millions who have caught the virus as well as for vaccines for the billions who, though still uninfected, live in constant fear that they too may soon have the virus.

Last Sunday, our Department of Science and Technology (DoST) announced that it has begun a study on the use of convalescent blood plasma as therapy for COVID-19. DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Pena said this study is now being conducted by the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) with funding rom the DOST.

Blood plasma donated by patients who have recovered from COVID-19 is administered to new patients. The blood plasma contains antibodies which, given at the right time, can mop up the virus in the new patient. The World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting the study.

The DOST said there is also a study being conducted on the use of coconut oil as a supplement for patients. The lauric acid found in coconut oil has been found to induce the body to naturally release enzymes with anti-viral properties.

Two anti-malarial drugs – Chloroquin and Hydroxychoroquine – are now being used on patients in Philippine hospitals, part of the WHO’s “Solidarity Trial” in 40 countries.

Other studies are underway on possible cure for COVID-19 with the drug Remdesivir which has been used to treat ebola; a combination of Lopinavir and Ritonavir, a licensed treatment for HIV; and another combination of Lopinavir-Ritonavir with Interferom Beta which is normally used to treat multiple sclerosis.

All these drugs are now being tested on Philippine patients under the WHO’s 40-nation “Solidarity Trial.” But President Duterte has made a special appeal in behalf of the plasma study at UP-PGH. He said the public should be proud of our health workers who are now treating thousands of COVID-19 patients, but also of the doctors and other researchers leading the study on plasma therapy as a cure for COVID-19.

This could be the Philippines’ big contribution to the global battle against the coronavirus, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. Many other drugs are now being tested in many countries and we are proud that the Philippines is doing its share in this world-wide life-and-death endeavor.