Experts: Five new drugs found to have inhibiting effect on coronavirus
Updated 14:13, 10-Feb-2020
By Cao Qingqing, Gao Yun

Five new drugs have been found to be effective in inhibiting the novel coronavirus, said experts on Sunday at a regular press conference held by Hubei Province on the updates of novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP). 

Three potential antiviral drugs preliminarily screened can inhibit virus replication at the cellular level, which have been used in the treatment of the disease. And five more new drugs are found effective in inhibiting the virus, said Chen Huanchun, professor of Huazhong Agricultural University.

Clinical trials of a U.S.-made antiviral medicine Remdesivir started February 6 in Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan, where 761 infected cases of the virus are included, said Peng Zhiyong, director of Intensive Care Unit at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University.

While the public is eager to know the test results, Peng said that it's only been three days and the experiment is not completed yet. It still takes time for the experts to evaluate its overall effectiveness.  

Three-pronged approach to detecting coronavirus

In the latest version of the diagnosis and treatment plan for the coronavirus, computed tomography (CT) imaging has been added as an auxiliary testing method in Hubei, suggesting that diagnosing the virus can no longer be solely dependent on nucleic acid test results.

The sample of the nucleic acid test was taken from the nasopharynx, in the upper respiratory tract, while the virus attacks mainly the lungs. So some cases show a "fake negative" in the nucleic acid test, which leads to misdiagnosis, and may "result in some sources of infection not really being identified and a risk of expansion," said Xu Shunqing, vice president at School of Public Health of Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

The fifth edition of the plan adds CT and clinical standards to provide evidence for diagnosis and treatment.

"Now the judgment of the disease does not only rely on the positive nucleic acid test, there are also clinical standards – a three consecutive days without fever, and improved CT imaging" which can make the judgement of the condition of the patient more accurately, said Xu.

Very low probability of infection by aerosol 

So far there is no direct evidence that the novel coronavirus can be spread by aerosol, said Xu.

"I think currently aerosol transmission is mainly in particular environments, such as confined, narrow space," said Xu. "It's possible to release a large amount of virus in the operating room at one time, in which case aerosol transmission might occur."

Xu told the public not to be terrified thinking that viruses are in the air in Wuhan as they may confuse aerosol transmission and air transmission.

Aerosols, as small as a couple of tenths of a micron, can be formed from both liquid and solid particles. Generally, wearing a mask can prevent aerosol transmission, said Xu.

The virus cannot stay in the air for long. The probability to get infected by aerosols passing through opening window for indoor ventilation is extremely low, stressed the expert, even much lower than that of winning the lottery.

Is there fecal-oral transmission?

The NCP is a respiratory infectious disease, and to cut off the respiratory transmission is the most difficult.

Even if there is fecal-oral transmission, which remains to be confirmed, it's quite easy to cut off this route as long as people pay attention to personal hygiene and wash hands before eating food and after using toilets, said Xu.

Warm weather will suppress the virus

Chen said that the novel coronavirus likes cold weather, and when the temperature gets higher, it will be suppressed. That's why between October and April, there is usually higher incidence of viral diseases.

The epidemic in Hubei is still at its peak time, and the key is to find out and isolate all potential infections, he said.

Researchers have recently identified pangolins as potential intermediate hosts of the novel coronavirus. /VCG Photo

Researchers have recently identified pangolins as potential intermediate hosts of the novel coronavirus. /VCG Photo

Seventy-eight percent of emerging human infectious diseases related to wildlife

Recently, researchers from South China Agricultural University and Lingnan Guangdong Laboratory of Modern Agriculture have identified pangolin as a potential intermediate host of the virus, but not the only one.

Chen reiterated that novel coronavirus may have multiple intermediate hosts, and said if the virus can be found to share a whole-genome similarity of 99 percent with pangolins, there will be greater reference value.  

He called on the public not to raise wild animals and "in no case should we eat wildlife."

"Seventy-eight percent of emerging human infectious diseases today are related to or derived from wildlife," Chen warned.