While immunizations have received most of the attention, you may have heard that Pfizer is testing a tablet to treat COVID-19. It sounds almost too fantastic to be true. The results are still preliminary, but it’s a promising strategy. Pfizer pill directly targets SARS-CoV-2, the virus itself, unlike most antiviral medications we’ve attempted to treat COVID-19, which target the inflammatory and immunological response caused by infection.
The high inflammatory and immunological response that might occur with an infection causes many diseases linked with COVID-19. So far, the most effective medications have targeted this overactive immune response. When used early in the condition, the inhaled corticosteroid budesonide has been found to minimize the development of more severe disease.
The oral corticosteroid dexamethasone lowers the risk of death in persons hospitalized with COVID-19 who require oxygen. The anti-inflammatory tocilizumab taken intravenously gives a person a greater chance of survival in the most severe COVID patients admitted to the ICU. However, these medicines only address the symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection, not the virus itself. It has proven more challenging to attack the disease directly. To increase, a virus-like SARS-CoV-2 has to penetrate a host cell.
It does this by attaching to the cell with its spike protein (a protein on the virus’s surface) and then exploiting its proteins to gain access. SARS-CoV-2 sheds its outer shell and releases its viral RNA once inside the cell (ribonucleic acid, a type of genetic material). This serves as a template for the virus, allowing it to multiply and infect new cells. The virus could be sensitive to intervention at any time during its life cycle.