COVID-19 Updates, May 7: Remdesivir, Antibody Testing, and Reinfection Risk

Our world is still changing every day because of COVID-19. Keeping up with all of the news can be challenging. Here are some of the top COVID-19 updates for people living with chronic health conditions.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on May 7, 2020. Further developments in what we know about the coronavirus are continuously emerging.

COVID-19 updates

Emergency-use authorization of remdesivir

On May 1, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the antiviral drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19.1 This allows people with COVID-19 to be treated with remdesivir at hospitals in the United States.2 Data from a clinical trial conducted by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases showed that COVID-19 patients who were given remdesivir recovered 31 percent faster than people who did not get the drug.3

Antibody testing

Antibody tests, also known as serologic tests, are important in the fight against COVID-19. When we are exposed to a virus, like the one that causes COVID-19, our immune system makes antibodies to protect us. These antibodies are so unique that finding them in the blood means a person has been exposed to that illness. With antibody tests, we can see if someone has been exposed to COVID-19. Even people who had COVID-19 but did not have any symptoms will have antibodies.

Antibody testing is not perfect. It can take 2 weeks or more for a person to develop antibodies. It is possible that some people who have recently been exposed to COVID-19 may not have any antibodies yet.4-6

Many companies have created COVID antibody tests. But some of these tests are not very accurate. On May 4, 2020, the FDA updated its COVID-19 test requirements to help regulate and improve the accuracy of COVID antibody tests. 7

Reinfection risk

Antibodies often provide protection against reinfection. However, doctors are finding some people who test positive for COVID-19 after getting better. It is unclear whether this is because they were reinfected, or if they never fully recovered in the first place. These cases could also be caused by testing errors.6,8

We do not have any information on COVID-19 reinfection in humans at this time. More research is needed to understand what the reinfection risk is.8,9

Hydroxychloroquine safety

The drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine caused quite a buzz for a while. These drugs are being studied in clinical trials for COVID-19 and should only be taken in a hospital or clinical trial setting, the FDA recently announced.

At this time, there is no evidence that these drugs kill the virus. However, these drugs can cause serious side effects such as life-threatening heart problems. The risk may be even greater when these medicines are combined with other drugs that impact the heart such as the antibiotic azithromycin.10

If you find products containing hydroxychloroquine on the market or on an online pharmacy, do not order or take these drugs unless you have a prescription. Taking these drugs can be dangerous without close supervision by your doctor.10

If you are taking hydroxychloroquine for a condition like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, it is safe to keep taking your prescription.10

Physical vs. social distancing

Different terms have been used to describe this time, including quarantine and social distancing. However, some experts suggest that the best term may be “physical distancing.” The most important things we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are good handwashing and to stay at least 6 feet away from others. But keeping space from others can feel isolating, and lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.11-13

Although we need to stay physically apart from one another, there are still many ways we can stay socially connected. These include video calls, virtual movie nights, hiking or walking at a safe distance apart, doing group exercise classes online, and more.11 Now more than ever, we need to stay socially connected, while keeping physically apart.

Editorial Note: On June 15, 2020, the FDA revoked the emergency use authorization (EUA) for chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The FDA found chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine ineffective in treating COVID-19, and that the serious side effects outweighed any potential benefits. Both drugs are still being studied in clinical trials. This announcement is meant to discourage doctors from prescribing these drugs off-label.14

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