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Home / Health & Science

Ebola drug treating Covid-19 ‘in two days’

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy MERCY KAHENDA | Sat,May 08 2021 00:00:00 EAT
By MERCY KAHENDA | Sat,May 08 2021 00:00:00 EAT

 A nurse injects a lady with the AstraZeneca vaccine at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

Dr Daniel Yumbya was not responding quickly to treatment after contracting Covid-19 in February.

The CEO of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC) had suffered persistent headache, high temperatures, nausea and lost his taste feeling. However, the coronavirus symptoms did not surprise him since he’s a frontline worker. He was only shaken when shortness of breath forced him to use supplemental oxygen in the five days he was admitted at the Nairobi West Hospital.

Medics placed him on Remdesivir, a drug that former US President Donald Trump used when he was down with Covid. Within two days, Dr Yumbya was back on feet again. 

“Being on oxygen can be so uncomfortable, but I gained strength from the severity,” he says.

Covid 19 Time Series


Dr Antony Gikonyo, a physician at the Karen Hospital in Nairobi, says Remdesivir is prescribed to patients in need of supplemental oxygen and those put on it respond fast to treatment compared to other drugs.

“Most come out of oxygen in about two to three days,” he adds.

But since majority of Covid-19 patients do not require hospitalisation, they do not need medical oxygen.

Remarkable recovery

“The earlier the medicine is used, the earlier it improves health of patients,” he notes.

Gikonyo explains that while it is not yet established how the drug works, Remdesivir has a history of treating the deadly Ebola virus and clinical research showed patients of Covid-19 exhibited remarkable recovery after using it.

The drug is used with other standard treatment including dexamethasone (useful for anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects).  

Remdesivir (GS-5734) works as an inhibitor of respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 as it does against Ebola virus. It also reduces lung virus levels and lung damage 12 hours after infection according to the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

The drug holds promise for treating Covid-19 based on in vitro activity (outside a living organism) against the coronavirus, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned against its use in hospitals, as there was no evidence yet, that it works.

But Gikonyo confirms local medics are using it.

“We follow guidelines in treating patients with the drug. For example, WHO says it should not be used, others from national institute of Health from UK, and CDC from US says there are places it is produced,” he adds.

Its side effects include nausea and liver problems, but so far, none have been reported in Kenya.

The New England Journal of Medicine November 2020 issue notes that Remdesivir was superior in shortening recovery time in adults hospitalised with Covid-19 compared to other drugs.

Yumbya’s treatment was supplemented with dexamethasone, antibiotics, Vitamin C and Vitamin D medicines.

“I never panicked after I tested Covid-19 positive. My mind was prepared and I realised I had to fight stronger for my life,” he says, adding that besides treatment he exercised regularly but suffered insomnia lasting one and a half weeks after he was discharged on February 26.  

“With Covid-19, you have to fight alone, without relying on anyone” reckons Yumbya, who avoided all forms of news including watching television, listening to the radio and reading newspapers.

“News of people dying, increased infections and new variants ravaging the country and the globe can be draining and toxic to a patient. This is why I kept off social media platforms and news because I wanted my time to recover. All that was on my mind was about my life.”

He shared news of his recovery later to avoid stigma and panic from family and friends.

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