Global research on coronavirus disease gets a boost

By Christine Ochogo

Scientists, physicians, funders, and policy makers globally have launched a COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition to accelerate research on the prevention and treatment of the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries.

This coalition formed by 70 institutions from over 30 countries aims to accelerate desperately needed COVID-19 research in those areas where the virus could wreak havoc on already-fragile health systems and cause the greatest health impact on vulnerable populations.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus.

The disease believed to have originated from Wuhan, a small market in China, has continuously been spreading globally from when it first broke out in November 2019.

The members of the coalition argue that international research collaboration and coordination is needed urgently to support African, Latin American, Eastern European, and certain Asian countries to respond effectively to the worsening pandemic and speed up research adapted to resource-limited settings.

“The coalition brings together an unprecedented array of health experts, including public-sector research institutes, ministries of health, academia, not-for-profit research and development organizations, NGOs, international organizations, and funders all committed to finding COVID19 solutions for resource-poor settings,” read in part a comment recently published in The Lancet.

One important research response to COVID-19 has been launched already, the World Health Organization (WHO)-led SOLIDARITY trial, an unprecedented global effort. However the authors found that out of almost 600 COVID-19 clinical trials registered, very few trials are planned in resource-poor settings. The authors commit to sharing their technical expertise and clinical trial capability to accelerate COVID-19 research in these settings.

The scale of the challenge is clearly beyond the scope of any single organization and therefore the coalition will facilitate a coordinated approach, so that all data from all regions can be collected in a similar fashion, pooled and shared in real-time. This will help countries and the WHO to make rapid evidence-based decisions on policies and practice.  

“We welcome the launch of this coalition, which takes advantage of existing multinational and multidisciplinary expertise in running clinical trials in resource poor settings, and will help the World Health Organization (WHO) in its coordinating role in the global response to COVID-19,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization.

“Although the epicenter is today elsewhere, we must prepare now for the consequences of this pandemic in more resource-constrained settings or we stand to lose many more lives,” added the doctor.

Members of the Coalition call for specific commitments to ensure access, so that effective new treatments are made available as soon as possible in resource-poor settings and are affordable and readily accessible.

Even though more than 70 organizations have joined this coalition, a call has been made to other organizations ready to contribute existing capacity to also join.

COVID-19 disease causes respiratory illness with symptoms such as cough, fever and in more severe cases victims who have been infected may have difficulties in breathing and even cause death.

The disease spread primarily through contact with infected person when they cough or sneeze. It is also spread when a person touches a surface or objects that have the virus.

In trying to control the spread of the disease, one is advised to wash their hands frequently using soap and running water, use sterilizers, avoid touching one’s face and keep social distance with people (1 meter or 3 feet).

The pandemic has so far affected over a million individuals globally, causing over 600,000 deaths. Different countries are trying to take various preventive measures in the help to curb its spread.

 In Kenya, the government has come up with measures among them asking people to stay at home and avoid social places, a daily 7.00 pm to 5.00am curfew and making use of masks.