Asheville – A professor of pharmacy at the University of Toronto sent this clearly worded update to his family:
For this pandemic, there’s a greater chance of survival for those getting infected 3 months later like June 2020 than those who got infected 3 months earlier, say February 2020. The reason for this is that doctors and scientists know more about COVID-19 now than 3 months ago and hence are able to treat patients better. I will list 5 important things that we know now that we didn’t know in February 2020 for your understanding:
1. COVID-19 was initially thought to cause deaths due to pneumonia—a lung infection—and so ventilators were thought to be the best way to treat sick patients who couldn’t breathe. Now we are realizing that the virus causes blood clots in the blood vessels of the lungs and other parts of the body and this causes reduced oxygenation. Now we know that just providing oxygen by ventilators will not help. We have to prevent and dissolve the micro-clots in the lungs.This is why we are using drugs like Aspirin and Heparin (blood thinners that prevent clotting) as a protocol in treatment regimens in October 2020.
2. Previously patients used to drop dead on the road or even before reaching a hospital due to reduced oxygen in their blood. This is called HAPPY HYPOXIA—where even though the oxygen saturation was gradually reducing, the COVID-19 patients did not have symptoms until it became critically less, like sometimes even 70%. Normally we become breathless if oxygen saturation reduces below 90%. This breathlessness is not triggered in COVID-19 patients so we were late in getting sick patients to hospitals in February 2020. Now since knowing about happy hypoxia, we are monitoring oxygen saturation of all COVID-19 patients with a simple home use pulse oximeter and getting them to the hospital if their oxygen saturation drops to 93% or less.This gives doctors time to correct the oxygen deficiency in the blood, and there is a better survival chance in October 2020.
3. We did not have drugs to fight the coronavirus in February 2020. We were only treating the complications caused by it—hypoxia. Hence most patients became severely infected. Now we have 2 important medicines FAVIPIRAVIR and REMDESIVIR. These ANTIVIRALS can kill the coronavirus. By using these two medicines, we can prevent patients from becoming severely infected and therefore cure them BEFORE THEY GO TO HYPOXIA. This is knowledge that is available in October 2020 … but was not in February 2020.
4. Many COVID-19 patients die not just because of the virus but also due to the patient’s own immune system responding in an exaggerated manner called CYTOKINE STORM. This stormy immune response not only kills the virus but also can kill the patients. In February 2020, we didn’t know how to prevent it from happening. Now in October 2020, we know that steroids, which doctors around the world have been using for almost 80 years, can be used to prevent the cytokine storm in some patients.
5. Now we also know that people with hypoxia become better just by making them lie down on their belly, known as prone position. Apart from this, a few days ago, Israeli scientists have discovered that a chemical known as Alpha Defensin produced by the patient’s white blood cells can cause the micro clots in blood vessels of the lungs and this can be treated with Colchicine which has been used over many decades in the treatment of Gout. So now we know for sure that patients have a better chance at surviving the COVID-19 infection in October 2020 than in February 2020. Going forward there’s nothing to panic about COVID-19 if we remember that a person who gets infected now has a better chance at survival than one who got infected early. Let’s continue to follow precautions, wear masks, and practice social distancing.