Experts advocate for earlier treatment of COVID-19 to save lives

Infectious disease experts from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW Medicine are advocating for earlier actions to reduce hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

In a new review article published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, the researchers outlined the strategy necessary to diagnose and treat the disease before it becomes uncontrollable. It includes:

  • The need for widely available home testing with nasal self-swabbing
  • Smaller, rapid studies using viral-shedding metrics and symptoms to measure risk of disease progression
  • The ability to safely deliver therapies to infected patients’ homes
  • Including disproportionately affected minority and underserved communities

“Without a vaccine, the best way to keep people out of the hospital and potentially dying from COVID-19 is to diagnose and treat early,” said lead author Dr. Joshua Schiffer, a physician and researcher in Fred Hutch’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division. “We’ve seen similar strategies for other infectious diseases like HIV, Ebola and influenza significantly lower transmission rates and mortality and believe it would have the same types of benefits for COVID-19.”

The authors note that most COVID-19-related clinical trials are evaluating therapies in patients who are already hospitalized. Given that the median time between development of symptoms and need for hospitalization is a week, they believe, “A golden opportunity to intervene early is being missed.”

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