Covid vaccine on India flag

View from India: 2-DG, India's first anti-Covid drug, coming to hospitals

Image credit: Dreamstime

2-DG will be available in hospitals this month, while the national vaccination programme gets a boost as almost 120 million vaccines to be made available, as indicated by the Health Ministry.

Around half of the Covid-19 vaccines will be made available free of charge, with data from the Ministry indicating that about 210 million doses have been administered as part of the vaccination drive.

Russian vaccine Sputnik V arrived in India last month with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories in Hyderabad as its marketing arm. Hyderabad’s Apollo Hospitals has begun to administer Sputnik V on a pilot basis. This week, the country received three million doses of Sputnik V, weighing 56.6 tonnes, making it the largest vaccine import shipment to India. The Apollo Group of Hospitals will administer it in its hospitals across the country. Named after the first Soviet Space satellite, Sputnik V is a two-dose vaccine; it is likely that the single dose Sputnik Light may also land on Indian shores soon.

As for other foreign vaccines, US drug makers such as Moderna and Pfizer are in talks with the Indian government and are seeking indemnity from the government.

Currently, Covishield and Covaxin are the vaccines being administered in India. The gap between the two doses of the Covishield vaccine, developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India, has been revised and widened by the Covid-19 Working Group, from the initial six to eight weeks to 12-16 weeks. Scientifically, it has been proven that the first dose of Covishield offers immunity for around 12 weeks. 

However as Covaxin is not supported by similar medical findings, the four to six-week interval between the two jabs remains the same. Covaxin is a homegrown vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology.

One hopes that the Covid curve will flatten in the coming months, gradually making way for international travel. Vaccine passports are yet to be mandated internationally, yet a stamp of approval is a pre-requisite. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been authorised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Medicines Agency. On its part, Bharat Biotech has submitted an application for WHO Emergency Use Listing. Regulatory approvals are expected in the next few months. The company is in the process of seeking regulatory approvals in more than 60 countries including the US, Brazil and Hungary, among others.

An anti-Covid drug is expected to be commercially available this month. 2-DG, or 2-deoxy-D-glucose, an anti-Covid drug, is the first of its kind in India that has been developed to stop the virus from multiplying. It accumulates in the virus-infected cells and prevents virus growth by stopping viral synthesis and energy production. The drug has been created for the selective accumulation in virally infected cells.

The oxygen crisis has led to a sharp increase in fatalities during the second wave. With 2-DG, the patient’s dependence on supplemental oxygen will be reduced and the patient’s duration of hospitalisation is expected to be lowered. A repurposed drug, 2-DG will come in a powder form that is taken orally by dissolving it in water. It will be sold in sachets.  

2-DG has been developed by the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences, a Defence Research and Development Organization lab, in collaboration with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories. It has been approved by the Drugs Controller General of India. 

As per media reports, research on the drug began last April. Lab experiments established the fact that the molecule works effectively against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and inhibits the viral growth. A higher proportion of patients treated with 2-DG showed RT-PCR negative conversion in Covid-19 patients. This led to the clinical trials of 2-DG, which have proved favourable.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lauded the frontline workers. Sharing his thoughts on Mann Ki Baat, the monthly radio programme, the PM said that India used to produce 900 metric tonnes of liquid medical oxygen on a daily basis; now its production has been ramped up by over 10 times. About 9,500 metric tonnes is currently being produced every day.

Fungus – black and white – is a deadly outcome of the pandemic. The fungal infections are new developments that have occurred in Covid-19 patients in the second wave. Though black fungus, or mucormycosis, was previously around, it has increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Black fungus, so-called because it blackens the tissue, can affect the face, infecting the nose, orbit of the eye, or the brain, which can even lead to loss of vision. Patients who also have diabetes and a low immune system are prone to black fungus.

Meanwhile, reports of white fungus, or candida albicans, have hit the headlines. This can damage the lungs, the digestive tract, kidneys, and the brain. It can be more dangerous than the black version as it is believed to spread faster to the body's vital organs. Low-immunity patients, or those who are on steroids or come in contact with water or unsanitary conditions, are susceptible to white fungus. Both black and white fungal infections can be treated with anti-fungal medication.  

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health, has informed the media that the country will be equipped to vaccinate at least all of its adult population by the end of the year.   

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