The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted lives over the world ever since it hit us last year. The Wuhan virus has created havoc in the entire world and it has resulted in close to 3 million deaths so far. India has been struggling with the deadly second wave resulting in 4 lakhs fresh cases every day. As the second wave hit us, Bharat Biotech came forward as a saviour in such times and developed an indigenous vaccine called COVAXIN in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)- National Institute of Virology (NIV). COVAXIN developed by Bharat Biotech is a two-dose vaccination regime given 28 days apart. The vaccine got DGCI approval for Phase I and Phase II trial in July 2020 last year. The vaccine demonstrated 81% interim efficacy in preventing COVID-19 in those without prior infection after the second dose. The company is aiming at producing 700 million doses annually which will be one of the largest productions of inactivated vaccines worldwide.
Another vaccine manufactured by India is Covishield. Serum Institute of India, in collaboration with AstraZeneca, developed a vaccine called Covishield to counter the Covid-19 virus. Covishield vaccine is approved for people who are 18 years of age and above. The vaccine comprises a two-dose routine and shows the efficacy of around 70%, but can be over 90% when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose a month later.
As India began its vaccination drive in January this year, Covishield and Covaxin were the two main vaccines that were administered to the people. So far, India has vaccinated 9.7% of its population with at least one dose and 2.4% of the population is fully vaccinated so far.
But vaccinating such a vast population as ours in a short period is a colossal task. In such times, apart from vaccines, drugs are a suitable alternative to treat the infected patients.
On 8th May, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which is the R&D wing of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India announced on Twitter that an anti-Covid-19 therapeutic application of the drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) has been developed by the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), a lab of DRDO in collaboration with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Hyderabad. The drug will help in the faster recovery of Covid-19 patients.
An anti-COVID-19 therapeutic application of the drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) has been developed by INMAS, a lab of DRDO, in collaboration with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Hyderabad. The drug will help in faster recovery of Covid-19 patients. https://t.co/HBKdAnZCCP pic.twitter.com/8D6TDdcoI7
— DRDO (@DRDO_India) May 8, 2021
The Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) approved the emergency use of drug 2-DG as an adjunct therapy in moderate-to-severe Covid-19 patients. Clinical trials have shown that this molecule has helped in the faster recovery of hospitalized patients and reduced supplemental oxygen dependency.
In April, 2020, when India was fighting the first wave of Covid-19, scientists at INMAS-DRDO conducted laboratory experiments with the help of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad. In the study undertaken, it was found that this molecule works effectively against the SARS-COV-2 virus and inhibits viral growth. DGCI permitted Phase-II clinical trials of 2-DG in Covid-19 patients in May-2020. In Phase-II trials (including dose-ranging) conducted from May to October 2020, the drug was found to be safe in COVID-19 patients and showed significant improvement in their recovery.
Seeing promising results, DGCI further permitted the Phase-III trials in November 2020. It was conducted on 220 patients between December 2020 to March 2021 at 27 Covid hospitals in Delhi, UP, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. In the 2-DG arm, a significantly higher proportion of patients responded positively and became free from supplemental oxygen dependence compared to Soc.
On May 1, 2021, DGCI granted permission for the Emergency use of this drug for moderate-to-severe Covid-19 patients. The drug comes in powder form on the sachet, which is taken orally by dissolving in water. It accumulates in the virus-infected cells and prevents the virus growth by stopping its viral synthesis. The drug is expected to save precious lives and also reduce the hospital stay of the patients infected with the virus.
Anand Ranganathan took to Twitter to congratulate DRDO and also thanked Patanjali for first suggesting the use of 2-DG for treating Covid-19.
Congrats to DRDO for EUA for 2deoxy-D-glucose, 2DG. An anti-cancer drug, its MoA might be inhibiting glycolysis in virus-infected cells.
— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) May 8, 2021
SARS-COV-2 loves glucose which increases its replication inducing cytokine storm. Elevated glucose levels directly promote viral replication and Cytokine Storm. Cytokine storm means the heightened immune response of the body against a virus which eventually causes damage to the body. If an excessive number of cytokines are released, it creates a high level of inflammation in the body’s area, so much that it can be even fatal. What 2-DG does is inhibits glucose flux, and blocks viral replication.
To counter this pandemic there are three possible methods in my opinion. One is announcing another national lockdown, but it is not an ideal way to curb the virus considering the current economic situation of the nation. Another method is to vaccinate the entire population as quickly as possible but the vaccination drive in India is a mammoth task to achieve owing to the huge population and the vaccine hesitancy of the people.
India is facing the deadly second wave and the health structure is collapsing with each passing day. In such a scenario where neither a complete lockdown nor vaccinating the entire population is an option, the drug approved by DGCI seems like a plausible third option, since it will reduce oxygen dependence of Covid-19 patients thereby reducing the number of patients that need to be hospitalized. This will eventually reduce the burden on the hospitals and healthcare workers and will help us fight this war against the Wuhan virus with much higher strength. Another silver lining of this drug is that it has been made in India which will boost our confidence as a nation.
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