The coronavirus has crippled economies and overwhelmed health systems across the globe, accelerating the need for a vaccine or cure to be developed.
While there is no guarantee that a vaccine for covid-19 will ever be successfully developed, there are more than 100 coronavirus vaccines in development with at least 20 expected to begin human testing in 2020.
Africa is not being left behind in this regard, with a handful of vaccine and treatment trials underway in countries including South Africa, Egypt, and Madagascar.
Here are seven coronavirus treatment and vaccination trials that are ongoing across Africa.
The Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine — used to vaccinate children against tuberculosis — has been administered to 250 healthcare workers in South Africa as part of a clinical study run by Cape Town-based social enterprise Task Applied Science, according to Businesstech. The aim of the study is to determine if the anti-tuberculosis drug reduces the probability or the severity of the covid-19 infection and its symptoms.
Authorities in Egypt approved proposals to conduct clinical trials in an effort to help develop therapeutics to treat the coronavirus, with 25 clinical studies in progress across Egypt. One of those is a study determining the effectiveness of the measles vaccine to counter the effects of coronavirus in Egyptian healthcare professionals. The clinical trial involves a group of 200 participants at the Kasr El Aini Hospital, a research and teaching hospital in Cairo.
Funded by the Washington University School of Medicine in Missouri and the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Zambia is taking part in the global Crown Coronation trial providing healthcare workers with various doses of chloroquine or a placebo to try and prevent or reduce the severity of covid-19 disease, according to ClinicalTrials.gov. Healthcare workers from the Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital and the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, both in Lusaka, are involved in the clinical trial.
Nigeria is in the process of conducting a patient-focused clinical study in Nigeria involving hospitalized covid-19 patients at the University College Hospital in Ibadan. The patients are given a combination of three medications — aspirin, losartan, and simvastatin — to determine whether any of the combinations assist with recovery or reduce symptom severity, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
From the beginning of April, South African researchers began enrolling patients in an international clinical trial launched by the World Health Organization which will compare the safety and effectiveness of different drugs or drug combinations against the coronavirus. Patients at 14 hospitals in South Africa will form part of the Solidarity trial involving more than 45 countries, with the drugs — remdesivir, chloroquine, ritonavir, lopinavir and interferon — provided to participants in random combinations, according to The Daily Maverick. Nigeria has also expressed an interest in joining the Solidarity trial.
In Tunisia, healthcare workers at the Abderrahmane Mami Hospital are being given hydroxychloroquine to assess the its safety and efficacy as a prophylactic treatment — a treatment given to prevent disease. A group of 530 health workers in intensive care units exposed to the risk of covid-19 infection will take the medication to determine its value as a prophylactic medicine, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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A herbal drink made from artemisia — a plant often used in southern African herbal medicines — is being touted by Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina as having preventive and curative properties against covid-19. In early May, the president announced that clinical trials were underway to test the drink, known as Covid-Organics, according to AfricaNews. A factory is being built to boost its production and authorities in Tanzania, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, DR Congo, Senegal and the Republic of Congo have shown an interest in the herbal remedy.
This clinical trial is not listed within the databases of major international health organizations or endorsed by the World Health Organization, as there is little scientific evidence available to back up its efficacy. At the request of Madagascar President Rajoelina, South African scientists will assist with testing the herbal drink, ENCA reported.
The effectiveness of the herbal drink is up for debate, with many simply dismissing the potential of Covid-Organics in the treatment of covid-19. However, it is worth noting that the Max Planck Institute, a Germany-based scientific research firm, is collaborating with ArtemiLife Inc., a U.S.-based company to test the artemisia annua plant extract — the key ingredient in Covid-Organics — in laboratory cell studies against the novel coronavirus.