Specialists at the Center for the Prevention of Thrombosis found a way to turn deadly COVID-19 into usual flu. Andrei Gromov, the head of the Center wants to share his discovery about how to make coronavirus harmless.
No, I’m not a virologist, and I won’t be able to treat this infection. But we look at the problem from a different perspective. We know how to minimize the consequences of a viral infection. After all, people die not from the virus, but its complications. If you manage to avoid them, then the great and terrible COVID-19 will be no more dangerous than ordinary flu, and our immunity will be able to cope with it.
The fact is that the COVID-19 epidemic has become such a shock for humankind, such a planetary threat, that world science has taken unprecedented measures. Scientists began to exchange information in an emergency. Chinese researchers published detailed protocols on the course of viral infection in major journals. And I, as a specialist who develops technologies for the diagnosis and treatment of thrombosis, saw a weak spot in the therapy used today. The fact is that the whole world cures the virus, trying to destroy the pathogen itself. And we decided that we should concentrate our efforts on the prevention of consequences and complications until scientists found a remedy against the virus.
Medics are using two types of treatments against COVID-19 now. The first is antiviral drugs; Chinese doctors mainly used ribavirin. The second is powerful anti-inflammatory substances designed to prevent the development of pneumonia. Those that are effective are heavy anti-malarial drugs, such as Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine. A lot of information about them is available. But, as experience shows, these drugs are not enough.
And we found a weak spot in this infection. As you know, it affects the lungs. There we have the primary “battle”. Therefore, it was the lungs that we decided to protect to prevent pathology from developing in them. After all, pneumonia does not begin on the first day. The infection spreads quite slowly. At first it “occupies” the nasopharynx, then gradually “crawls” to the lungs. Therefore, doctors have the opportunity to buy time.
In Russia, the situation is not as dangerous as it was in China. About 23% of patients have an asymptomatic infection in our country, they have a small viral load, and their immunity copes with the disease on their own. In 63-65% of patients, a viral infection of the type of influenza or parainfluenza develops. And only in 14%, everything flows into pneumonia. Up to a third of patients with complications in the form of pneumonia do not survive. And they die precisely from pneumonia.
Moreover, it is disastrous. Even those recovering develop adhesions. The lungs are pulled together by a scar of connective tissue, and a person remains with respiratory failure for life. So, if you stop the development of pneumonia, then the immune system can cope with the virus itself.
It is not about ordinary pneumonia. Here is the thing. COVID-19 is a smart virus. Once in the lungs, it is waiting for an immune response. And the immunity throws all its defences there, which are white blood cells, and unique proteins, and NK cells, and T-lymphocytes, and macrophages … They act like artillery shells or grenades. There is an explosive reaction. That is, they destroy the virus, but also damage the surrounding tissue. However, lung tissue is all riddled with blood vessels. And a side effect of this battle is rapid pulmonary oedema. Breathing begins to break. Moreover, the more our defenders “try”, the more they throw out inflammatory proteins, the more their native cells are damaged.
Watch what happens. These “explosives” that immunity cells emit for our protection, they damage the walls of blood vessels. And then, blood plasma penetrates the lungs, into the respiratory vesicles (alveoli). It contains fibrinogen – an abundant fibrous protein; it is needed to close the damage to blood vessels. In principle, fibrinogen protects us from bleeding. But in this case, it begins to work against the body.
A cunning virus wraps the situation in its favour and uses fibrinogen for its protection. It builds a kind of ramparts, walls, trenches, dugouts around itself so that it becomes impregnable. But the worse thing is in the lungs; thus, numerous micro blood clots form.
That’s it. It uses our defence system for its purposes. That is the trick. Not without reason, everyone notes that this is a very smart virus; it causes explicitly such a blast wave in the human body, and it provokes us. It initially “knows” this mechanism and expects to use it to entrench itself, to fence itself and protect itself from the body by blood clots.
As a result, blood clots flood the lung, squeeze it from all sides. That is why we have all these severe cases, including deaths. If we can stop the process of thrombosis, the problem will be solved, and the virus will lose its lethality.
Of course not. We are not the only ones in the world, so smart. But there is one point. I am a specialist in thrombosis. The doctors who are now struggling with COVID-19 have no experience dissolving large blood clots. I have 30 years of experience. I know how it works, I used to dissolved pulmonary thromboembolism, and these are very heavy blood clots, equal in mortality to a heart attack. And I understand what medics can do in case of coronavirus pneumonia.
There are well-known remedies. Firstly, these are anticoagulants which interfere with blood coagulation, for example, heparins. And secondly, thrombolytics which dissolve blood clots. (By the way, I note in parentheses: pharmacists of Milan produce low molecular weight heparins. And I do not know why Italian doctors do not use them.)
But the most important thing is the time to start treatment. Now all over the world, patients are being treated when it is too late, and pneumonia is in full swing, blood clots have already developed, a person is in serious condition. We suggest doing this much earlier. Since the virus gives us time, we need to start treatment before it comes to pneumonia. Introduce heparins to those who have just had shortness of breath like moderate patients to make coronavirus harmless. And, of course, to everyone who is at risk, who are over 60, who have chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes, oncology etc. It is our Novosibirsk exclusive, our know-how.
The fact is that the Americans, as far as I know, also had the idea that blood clots could be dissolved. And even the other day they decided to try this idea. But the problem is that their thrombolytic is very expensive and it is not possible to use it massively, only on the most severe patients. And such patients, as we said, are often too late to treat. So, about the exclusive. In Novosibirsk, they produce a much cheaper drug, which has no side effects and can be massively used for treatment in such situations. It is Trombovazim, and it is well known to specialists.
Humanity is not yet able to defeat COVID-19. Until specific antiviral drugs and a vaccine appear, it will infect us. But we can and offer to minimize mortality today. Stop the disaster. Save the lives of thousands of people who die from the effects of coronavirus every day. It is quite real to make coronavirus harmless. And then the infection will go into the category of routine respiratory diseases; hospitals will be unloaded, people will perceive COVID-19 as normal flu, which, of course, is not very pleasant to hurt, but not mortally dangerous.
Andrei Gromov, Director of the Center for the Prevention of Thrombosis, Ph.D., Senior Researcher at the Laboratory of Clinical Biochemical and Hormonal Studies of Therapeutic Diseases, Research Institute of Therapy and Preventive Medicine, author and co-author of seven textbooks and monographs, as well as more than 250 printed scientific papers, speaker many international and European medical congresses.