How much the new Pacific squid and echinacea drug will help treat covid is difficult to say.
Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil
With tens of thousands of people infected every day, and more than a thousand people die every day, any news that scientists have discovered new drugs against the virus sounds like music. And it doesn't matter in whose performance, even a military orchestra.
“Our experiments have shown that on the second day of using a biologically active food supplement called “KovBAD”, the amount of virus in the nasopharynx is halved, and on the sixth day, its concentration is reduced by 16 times. As a result, the impact on the human body also decreases, the disease proceeds with fewer complications", - news agencies quote the lieutenant general.
Military medics and researchers have been working on both vaccines and drugs for covid since the beginning of the epidemic. This fact is little known to the general public, but as it turned out, another scientific center of the Ministry of Defense - the 48th Central Research Institute of Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection, took part in the creation of the Sputnik V vaccine: in cooperation with the Gamalea Institute. And the Novosibirsk "Vector" was once the same unit of the army.
The dietary supplement, which received state registration, contains extracts of chokeberry, echinacea, fucoidan, Pacific squid hydrolyzate and other unnamed substances. Nothing more is known about the miracle drug.
"The agent in question appears to be an immunostimulant, at least because it contains echinacea extracts. It’s not bad, let it be, but you don’t have to wait much”, - Doctor of Biological Sciences, professor at Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov Alexey Agranovsky told Novye Izvestia.
The experts interviewed by "NI" reacted very cautiously to this news. The spectrum of opinions about the new drug - from poorly hidden skepticism to very cautious optimism.
"I am sure that this is an unbaked study, along with extracts from chaga, birch, recently some have passed - and, pepper, it's all like a dead poultice. I would like to find a panacea for carpet infection. But practice, unfortunately, shows that this does not happen”, - says a professor at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and Rutgers University in the United States. Head of Laboratories at the Institute of Genetics, National Research Center "Kurchatov Institute" and the Institute of Gene Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Konstantin Severinov.
Everyone wants to do their bit in the fight against coronavirus, and rightly so. But most of all, you need to be wary of trying to find simple solutions to a very complex problem. The task for drug developers against covid is very difficult, says Konstantin Severinov:
"The problem is that it is difficult to purposefully suppress the multiplication of the virus without affecting our own cells, unlike bacterial cells, where antibiotics perform this function. Therefore, there are very few drugs with direct action against viruses. In this case, it is supposed to be used as a dietary supplement and to prevent the virus from multiplying".
In fact, drug discovery and development is a long and expensive business. Strictly speaking, if there are vaccines that help against certain viruses, then medications simply do not. The vaccine is given faster than the medicine. Alexey Agranovsky recalls that the drug for hepatitis C was made for several decades, until, finally, they found what was needed. Now there are promising drug developments in the world, for example, an inhibitor of the main, or serine, proteinase of coronavirus, an enzyme that breaks down a precursor protein to form mature proteins. There is a drug that looks like a cocktail of replication inhibitors against the human immunodeficiency virus. Finally, there is another promising drug based on defective interfering RNA:
“This is a short RNA derived from the SARS-Cov-2 genome that can replicate. Such RNAs are formed during viral infections, and they only interfere with the virus. The replicative powers of the virus are spent on this little one. Defective RNA does not harm a person, and it stops the replication of the virus.
But there is only one development principle - a long way of evidence-based medicine, ending with clinical trials and publication in scientific journals so that all scientists in the world can verify the result.
If the drug works, says Aleksey Agranovsky, then let the developers conduct clinical trials and report the results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Professor Anatoly Altstein recalls that throat rinses, which include substances with antibacterial properties, also reduce the concentration of the virus. What a military dietary supplement is capable of is difficult to say now:
"Since this is a dietary supplement, there will be no scientific publication, no control. We need data published in a scientific journal. If there is no such data, then it will be another dietary supplement, there are a lot of them. They do not bring much harm, but no one knows whether they are useful".
The search for drugs and prophylactic agents against the virus is going on all over the world. And the only way to test if a drug is working is through clinical trials. Indeed, there is such a way when a drug is declared as a dietary supplement, and then it is brought to the level of a drug, explains Maria Lagarkova, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Biological Sciences:
"With appropriate laboratory studies, preclinical studies, if the effectiveness of a substance has been shown, no matter what kind of antiviral agent, there is an approach called "repositioning"".
Biotech companies are screening chemistry libraries and laboratories, which are tested in different test systems for a wide variety of diseases. Out of a million substances, for example, 20 candidates remain. They move on to the next stage, where they are tested for various properties, for example, for their toxicity. After this test, 1-2 drugs remain, and maybe not a single one.
"Then these substances go through the next stage of preclinical research. Then he undergoes a preclinic, first on cell cultures, then on laboratory animals, if the absence of a toxic effect and the presence of an effect aimed at the very disease is proven, then it goes into clinical trials. Then the registration process begins", - this is how Maria Lagarkova describes the long, taking months, and more often years, path from scientific development to a pill in a pharmacy.
Whether from squid, even from any herb, any substance can undergo this procedure. This is the process of proving these things, scientists say.
Experts can judge the development of a military dietary supplement only by indirect indications. If you get results that indicate a decrease in the amount of virus in the nasopharynx, this means that tests were carried out on animals or humans. To do this, you need to obtain the appropriate permission. And neither society nor scientists have such information. Konstantin Severinov says sarcastically:
"If it is a dietary supplement, it seems to be a pill that will have to be sold without a prescription. You can probably also wear it in an amulet around your neck. It can be used as a virus catcher, you can sprinkle it on the head of the virus, if he had one. We are not talking about anything and we arrange advertising, because there is no bad advertising, for a product that does not exist".
Judging by the number of scientific publications, a cure for covid is indeed on the way, but dietary supplements from the Ministry of Defense are among the contenders under the biggest question, agrees with colleague Alexey Agranovsky:
"It's just a way to increase immunity, judging by the reported composition. Maybe there is something else there. But a dietary supplement is a dietary supplement, it is akin to homeopathy. The rest of the drug development - based on nucleoside analogs, a proteinase inhibitor and defective RNA - is quite literate, judging by the description. We will wait for the results of clinical trials".
All the time someone says that there is a serious drug for covid, sums up Maria Lagarkova. But whether this or that remedy will be serious, only trials and time will tell.
“Our experiments have shown that on the second day of using a biologically active food supplement called“ KovBAD ”, the amount of virus in the nasopharynx is halved, and on the sixth day, its concentration is reduced by 16 times. As a result, the impact on the human body also decreases, the disease proceeds with fewer complications, "news agencies quote the lieutenant general.