World Events

What we know — and don’t — about Trump’s Covid case

Is he taking hydroxychloroquine?
The White House hasn’t said whether Trump has taken the anti-malarial drug since he finished a two-week course in May after a possible exposure. Multiple trials have shown it to have no clinical benefit for Covid-19. Trump was closely monitored when he took the drug in spring in case he developed an irregular heart condition, a known side effect, his physician said at the time.

What other treatments are available?
Only a handful of treatments have been shown to help patients. Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir, originally developed to fight Ebola, shortens recovery in hospitalized patients by a few days, but data is inconclusive on whether it reduces the risk of death. The FDA authorized emergency use of remdesivir in May, and evidence has shown it’s more effective the earlier it’s given in the course of a patient’s infection.

U.K. scientists reported in June that a decades-old steroid called dexamethasone reduced the risk of death for severely ill patients. But the drug, which quiets the immune system, could backfire in mild or moderately ill patients.

The Trump administration has also aggressively promoted the use of antibody-rich blood plasma from coronavirus survivors. It’s been used in the past to treat diseases ranging from Ebola to diphtheria, with mixed results. There’s no clear evidence it helps those ill with Covid-19, and an expert panel advising the government says it should not be considered standard of care. The FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the treatment in late August over the objections of top federal scientists.

White House doctors may also look to monoclonal antibodies — lab-made versions of antibodies that the immune system makes to ward off disease. Versions from Eli Lilly and Regeneron are now in late-stage clinical trials, and results have been promising. Both companies have found that their antibody helps patients’ bodies clear the virus and potentially speed recovery. And both firms make their antibody drugs available to some patients outside of clinical trials.

Could there be long-term effects?
There’s a growing population of patients who haven’t fully recovered from the coronavirus months after first experiencing symptoms. Many of these “long haulers” had mild or moderate symptoms that sometimes didn’t require hospitalization.

Common symptoms that linger over time include fatigue, a cough, shortness of breath, headaches, joint pain and in some cases, damage to the heart, lungs or brain. The difficulty of predicting outcomes has led scientists to study patients who had related viruses like SARS. The Mayo Clinic notes many who recovered went on to develop chronic fatigue syndrome, a disorder that worsens with physical or mental activity but doesn’t improve with rest.

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