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6 COVID-19 treatments helping patients survive

New treatments target different stages of COVID-19, including before patients become sick enough to need a hospital. Juan Monino via Getty Images

6 COVID-19 treatments helping patients survive

New treatments target different stages of COVID-19, including before patients become sick enough to need a hospital. Juan Monino via Getty Images

6 COVID-19 treatments helping patients survive

New treatments target different stages of COVID-19, including before patients become sick enough to need a hospital. Juan Monino via Getty Images

6 COVID-19 treatments helping patients survive

New treatments target different stages of COVID-19, including before patients become sick enough to need a hospital. Juan Monino via Getty Images

There is still no quick cure, but thanks to an unprecedented global research effort, several treatments are helping patients survive COVID-19 and stay out of the hospital altogether.

William G. Bain, University of Pittsburgh; Georgios D. Kitsios, University of Pittsburgh, and Tomeka L. Suber, University of Pittsburgh

A year ago, when U.S. health authorities issued their first warning that COVID-19 would cause severe “disruption to everyday life,” doctors had no effective treatments to offer beyond supportive care.

There is still no quick cure, but thanks to an unprecedented global research effort, several treatments are helping patients survive COVID-19 and stay out of the hospital altogether.

COVID-19 treatments target two broad problems: the coronavirus’s ability to spread through the body, and the damage caused by the body’s immune system response. When the virus enters the body, it takes over cells and uses them to replicate itself. In response, the body sends inflammatory signals and immune cells to fight the virus. In some patients, that inflammatory response can continue even after the virus is under control, leading to damage in the lungs and other organs.

The best tool is prevention, including using face masks and vaccines. Vaccines train the immune system to fight off attackers. With less risk of an uncontrolled infection, they can cut the risk of death from COVID-19 to near zero. But vaccine supplies are limited, even with a third vaccine now authorized for U.S. use, so treatments for infected patients remain crucial.

As doctors who work with COVID-19 patients, we have been following the drug trials and success stories. Here are six treatments commonly used today for COVID-19. As you’ll see, timing matters.

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