In 2005, scientists bet that the next pandemic wouldn’t be a coronavirus …

They dropped the ball on development of test kits, vaccines and, oh yeah, testing of hydroxychloroquine.

Christine Dolan is a former Political Director for CNN and is now an Investigative Journalist, for a site called Just the News.

Her latest piece caught my eye:


Here’s Dolan’s top line:

Since the COVID-19 pandemic burst upon the world, scientists have been scrambling to conduct clinical tests on possible treatments, both old and new, like HIV cocktails, remdesivir, and anti-malaria drugs.

Their answers are weeks or months away, even as the disease spreads and claims more lives now.

But it didn’t have to be this way, experts say.

Government and private scientists could have taken the lessons and promising indicators gathered from prior coronavirus outbreaks dating to 2002 and turned them into clinical trials for the medicines that showed the most hope.

But instead the scientific world bet that the next big pandemic would emanate from a more traditional flu and not a coronavirus like Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

That bet proved wrong in 2020.

Here’s the scoop…


The decision

This tale of inaction and inertia dates to a period after the 2002-03 eruption in China of SARS, a coronavirus sister to today’s pathogen.

Experts say that decisions were made to prioritize a pandemic flu over the coronavirus.

Pandemic Flu was expected to spread much faster and become more lethal because of the natural spread by birds across continents  (of which the models predicted it to kill millions quickly).

COVID-19 does not spread across continents by natural spread via birds but only via human to human contact, which was expected to be more easily containable.


A consequence

There was a lack of followup after early drug studies found some promising treatments that worked anecdotally during the SARS outbreak in 2003, two smaller coronavirus outbreaks in 2004-05, and MERS in 2012.

The anti-malarial drug known as chloroquine was one of a handful flagged as a potential treatment.

One such study in 2005 found “chloroquine has strong antiviral effects on SARS-Cove infection of primate cells.

These inhibitory effects are observed when the cells are treated with the drug either before or after exposure to the virus, suggesting both prophylactic and therapeutic advantage.”

Such promise and warnings never translated into action, and as a result more detailed clinical trials that could validate or rule out treatments were never carried out.


Where we stand

The FDA has approved Hydrochloroquine for “off label compassionate use”.  That means that doctors are free to prescribe it to coronavirus patients.

In part to satisfy Dr. Fauci’s appetite for large scale randomized clinical tests…

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a large global trial, called Solidarity, to find out whether any drug can treat COVID-19.

WHO’s Solidarity program will focus on the therapeutic drugs remdesivir, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, ritonavir/lopinavir, and interferon-beta, several of which have showed early promise

Hospitals treating COVID-19 patients can participate.


Bottom line: If scientists had bet on coronavirus instead of a pandemic flu, we would have a pharmacy full of prophylactic and therapeutic drugs to treat coronavirus … and wouldn’t be debating the merits of apparently effective drugs … and scrambling to do clinical tests.


Source article: The road not traveled: How Big Science skipped clinical trials after past coronavirus outbreaks

The 2005 Study: Chloroquine is a potent inhibitor of SARS coronavirus infection and spread


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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2 Responses to “In 2005, scientists bet that the next pandemic wouldn’t be a coronavirus …”

  1. Oh my, what a disappointing Senate hearing… | The Homa Files Says:

    […] For details and links, see our March 28 post In 2005, scientists bet that the next pandemic wouldn’t be a coronavirus … […]

  2. “I was for hydroxychloroquine before I was against it” | The Homa Files Says:

    […] See In 2005, scientists bet that the next pandemic wouldn’t be a coronavirus … […]

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