9 Additional Countries Report COVID-19 Cases as Researchers Race to Develop Solutions

The virus has now reached all continents except Antarctica, with cases reported in 47 countries.

Researchers are working to find treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has infected over 82,294 people globally, and has resulted in over 2800 deaths.1

In the 24 hours before 10 am on February 27, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed cases in 9 countries that had previously been unaffected: Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Norway, Pakistan, Romania, and North Macedonia.1 The virus has now reached all continents except Antarctica, with cases reported in 47 countries.1

The CDC has confirmed 62 cases for the United States, including 3 citizens repatriated from Wuhan, China, and 44 individuals repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.2

On Wednesday, the CDC confirmed the first possible instance of community spread in the US, a patient in California that did not have relevant travel history nor exposure to another known patient with COVID-19.3 Community spread could make the virus much more difficult to control, because it would be less predictable, and more difficult to track.

In addition, a drug manufacturer has alerted the FDA to a drug shortage, due to shortage of an active pharmaceutical ingredients at a site affected by COVID-19. The FDA emphasized that there are other alternatives for patients to use, and that the agency is working to mitigate this shortage. The FDA has also assured consumers that they are still able to monitor and ensure the safety of drug and food products by implementing import screening, examinations, and sampling.4

Researchers and scientists are working to find a solution to COVID-19, however.

Moderna, Inc. released the first batch of mRNA-1273 for phase 1 study on Monday, February 24. The drug, a potential vaccine against the virus, was delivered from the company’s facility 42 days after sequence identification. mRNA-1273 could immunize against the novel virus encoding for a prefusion stabilized form of the Spike protein, according to a press release from the company. Manufacture of the vaccine was funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.5

A clinical trial for a potential treatment also began this past week, investigating the use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19. The trial began at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, and is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.6

The first trial participant is an American repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The authors said the study can be adapted to evaluate additional investigative treatments, and to enroll participants at other sites in the US and worldwide.6

Remdesivir is an investigational broad-spectrum antiviral treatment, previously tested in patients with Ebola virus disease. It has shown promise in animal models for treating Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome, which are closely related to the novel coronavirus.6

Expert recommendations still include basic hand washing and cough hygiene, as well as avoiding close contact with anyone with a respiratory illness.1 Pharmacists also are encouraging patients to prepare for a potential pandemic situation by keeping common over-the-counter medications, household supplies, and prescription medications nearby.

REFERENCES

  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 38. World Health Organization; February 27, 2020. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200227-sitrep-38-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=9f98940c_2. Accessed February 28, 2020.
  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the US. CDC website; updated February 28, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html. Accessed February 28, 2020.
  • CDC Confirms Possible Instance of Community Spread of COVID-19 in the US [news release]. CDC website; February 26, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/s0226-Covid-19-spread.html. Accessed February 28, 2020.
  • Hahn S. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Supply Chain Update. FDA website. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-supply-chain-update Published February 27, 2020. Accessed February 28, 2020.
  • Moderna Ships mRNA Vaccine Against Novel Coronavirus (nRNA-1273) for Phase 1 Study [news release]. Cambridge, Mass; February 24, 2020. https://investors.modernatx.com/news-releases/news-release-details/moderna-ships-mrna-vaccine-against-novel-coronavirus-mrna-1273. Accessed February 28, 2020.
  • NIH clinical trial of remdesivir to treat COVID-19 begins [news release]. Bethesda, MD; February 25, 2020. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-clinical-trial-remdesivir-treat-covid-19-begins. Accessed February 28, 2020.