Birmingham’s medical community continues to impress—the response to the coronavirus is just one recent example. Both the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Southern Research are working to combat the deadly virus—here’s how, and what you need to know to protect yourself from COVID-19.
The Latest on the Coronavirus
COVID-19, formerly known as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, is continuing to spread across the globe. On February 25, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed a case of COVID-19 in a person in the U.S. who had no travel history to Wuhan, China (where the virus started) or exposure to another known patient. More coronavirus cases are being reported across the country, and two coronavirus deaths have also been confirmed in the U.S. in recent days.
Luckily, there are no cases of COVID-19 in Alabama (as of March 2, 2020)—but it doesn’t hurt to stay informed or be prepared.
A New Vaccine from Southern Research
While we don’t have any patients in Birmingham with coronavirus, our city is playing an integral role in the treatment of it. Southern Research just announced a collaboration with New York biopharmaceutical company Tonix Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp. for the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.
The new vaccine, TNX-1800, is based on Tonix’s proprietary horsepox vaccine, which was initially developed to protect against smallpox but has been shown to be effective for other types of infectious diseases.
Horsepox is closely related to vaccinia vaccines, which are a group of orthopoxviruses that have been used as smallpox vaccines. Some vaccinia vaccines have been engineered to express coronavirus proteins and to elicit vaccine responses successfully in the past.
Southern Research and Tonix will be testing the horsepox vaccine that expresses a protein from the virus that causes COVID-19. Stay tuned.
A Drug Trial with Ties to UAB
As part of a study on emerging infections based at UAB, an antiviral drug, remdesivir, is being tested on COVID-19 patients. According to Dr. Richard Whitley, lead researcher and professor of pediatrics at UAB, there are two trials managed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Chinese government and Gilead Sciences currently underway in China. Drug trials are also beginning here in the U.S. Data from these trials is expected in April.
Preventing Spread of the Coronavirus
Dr. Whitley’s top tips for prevention of COVID-19 are below:
- Avoid crowds
- Strict handwashing
- Don’t go to work if you are sick
For more information about coronavirus, how it spreads and prevention, visit the CDC’s website.