COVID-19: Antiviral pill treatment could become available by winter

Scientists are trialing several types of antiviral pill treatments to cure COVID-19 infections that could be made available in the coming months.

An international effort to come up with a pill that could treat the coronavirus could become available in just a few months, according to scientists.

Similar treatments already on the market

The oral medication would work in a similar fashion to HIV and Hepatitis C treatments known as antivirals. These types of pills are already in the market to shorten the duration of flu symptoms and decrease the need for hospitalisation, as well.

Antivirals work by boosting one's immune system in order to fight off infections. They can also be engineered to block receptors to not infect healthy cells, which in turn reduces the amount of active virus in one's body. Timothy Sheahan, virologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who has extensive experience developing this type of therapy, explained that:

Oral antivirals have the potential to not only curtail the duration of one’s Covid-19 syndrome, but also have the potential to limit transmission to people in your household if you are sick.

Four pills, twice a day

As it stands currently, three types of COVID-19 antivirals are being tested, with results expected to come out this winter. In Seattle, about 2,000 participants have taken part in a study in which they had to take four pills twice a day upon being infected with the virus.

Once the antiviral treatment is proven to be an effective tool to fight off the virus, the only task remaining would be to create a distribution system timely enough to reach individuals as soon as they test positive. Dr Elizabeth Duke, a Fred Hutch research associate overseeing the study, said:

Think about that, you could give it to everyone in a household or everyone in a school. Then we’re talking about a return to, maybe, normal life.
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