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Zdravila proti covidu-19 imajo mnogo stranskih učinkov. Vir: Pixnio
Zdravila proti covidu-19 imajo mnogo stranskih učinkov. Vir: Pixnio

A vaccine or medicine against a new coronavirus?

Lately, we often hear about drugs against the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

How do we distinguish a vaccine from a drug?

»Vaccines and medicines cannot be compared, because they work completely differently. We try to prevent the disease with vaccines, and we treat the disease with drugs,« explains David Zupančič, a specialist in infectology.

»Vaccination is more advisable than trying to get over and cure the disease.«

Covid-19 is a viral disease, so it cannot be treated with antibiotics. These only work on bacterial infections.

Zdravila se predpiše le, če naš imunski sistem ni zmožen sam premagati virusa. Vir: Wikimedia Commons
Medications are only prescribed if our immune system is unable to defeat the virus on its own. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In viral infections, we usually let the immune system fight the infection.

At the same time, we alleviate the symptoms, such as reducing our body temperature and resting a lot. This should not be equated with treatment.

Drugs against the new coronavirus are only considered in more severe cases as the last resort, as they have many side effects.

In addition, they work in different ways, and we need to be careful when using them.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the antiviral drug remdesivir, which inhibits the replication of the virus.

We also know of treatment with antibodies that target the virus. There are several types of antibodies – some help the immune system recognize and destroy the virus, while others can stop it from reproducing.

Zdravniki morajo paziti, da steroidov ne predpišejo prezgodaj. Vir: Pixnio
Physicians should be careful not to prescribe steroids too soon. Source: Pixnio

At a later stage, when pneumonia can occur, steroids are very effective. Steroids suppress our immune system to prevent excessive inflammation, which can cause severe organ damage.

If we use steroids too early, we can slow down our own defences against the virus and make the condition worse.

»In Slovenia, steroids, the antiviral drug remdesivir, antibody infusions and, under special conditions, other monoclonal antibodies are used to treat Covid-19. There are two other very promising new antiviral drugs on the way, which we are already looking forward to,« adds David Zupančič.

Points To Consider

  1. Do you know any bacterial diseases?
  2. What does it mean that a medicine has many side effects?
  3. How does the vaccine work?

***

The original version of this article was published on December 10th.

English translation courtesy of JL FlannerTotal Slovenia News, an English language website with news from and about Slovenia.

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Adamič je študentka biotehnologije, rada potuje po svetu in približuje znanost najmlajšim.

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