ARE THERE MEDICINE OR THERAPY TO CURE OR PREVENT COVID-19?

While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease. WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings are available.

ARE ANTIBIOTICS EFFECTIVE FOR TREATING COVID-19 INFECTION?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.

W.H.O. POSITION ON USE OF CORTICOSTEROID IN COVID-19 PATIENTS

The current interim guidance from WHO on clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection when COVID-19 infection is suspected advises against the use of corticosteroids unless indicated for another reason. This guidance is based on several systematic reviews that cite lack of effectiveness and possible harm from routine treatment with corticosteroids for viral pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome.

CAN ANTIRETROVIRAL BE USED TO TREAT COVID-19?

Several studies have suggested that patients infected with the virus causing COVID-19, and the related coronavirus infections (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) had good clinical outcomes, with almost all cases recovering fully.ย  In some cases, patients were given an antiretroviral drug: lopinavir boosted with ritonavir (LPV/r). These studies were mostly carried out in HIV-negative individuals.

It is important to note that these studies using LPV/r had important limitations. The studies were small, timing, duration and dosing for treatment were varied and most patients received co-interventions/co-treatments which may have contributed to the reported outcomes.

While the evidence of benefit of using antiretrovirals to treat coronavirus infections is of very low certainty, serious side effects were rare. Among people living with HIV, the routine use of LPV/r as treatment for HIV is associated with several side effects of moderate severity. However, as the duration of treatment in patients with coronavirus infections was generally limited to a few weeks, these occurrences can be expected to be low or less than that reported from routine use.

CAN ANTIRETROVIRAL BE USED TO PREVENT COVID-19 INFECTION?

Two studies have reported the use of LPV/r as post-exposure prophylaxis for SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. One of these studies suggested that the occurrence of MERS-CoV infection was lower among health workers receiving LPV/r compared to those who did not receive any drugs; the other study found no cases of SARS-CoV infection among 19 people living with HIV hospitalized in the same ward of SARS patients, of whom 11 were on antiretroviral therapy. Again, the certainty of the evidence is very low due to small sample size, variability in drugs provided, and uncertainty regarding intensity of exposure.

ADOPTED FROM W.H.O.