The hunt for Covid-19 ‘cures’: Existing treatments repurposed to treat coronavirus patients

Flu jab latest among slew of medicines to help Covid patients get better

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 14: A health care worker administers a flu vaccine to a man at a temporary vaccination centre during the second wave of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on October 14, 2020 in Las Rozas, near Madrid, Spain. Madrid regional government started today an early flu vaccine campaign as a measure against the coronavirus pandemic, with stock of 1.300.000 doses. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

As the world races to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, doctors are increasingly turning their attention to alternative treatments.

The latest research suggests that the flu jab may be able to prime the immune system to attack invading coronavirus cells, potentially reducing the risk of death by more than a third.

The flu jab is among a slew of medicines that have been repurposed for coronavirus:

Flu jab

Two studies - in Italy and in Brazil - found that those who had received the jab were less likely to die from coronavirus.

In the Milan University study, researchers examined hospital admissions and deaths in areas with high flu vaccine uptake and areas where few people got the jab.

They found the coronavirus death toll was about 150 per 100,000 of the population in areas where fewer than 30 per cent were immunised against the flu.

The Brazil study tracked more than 90,000 Covid patients and found mortality rates were up to 35 per cent lower among those who received a flu jab, compared with those who didn’t.

BCG vaccine against TB

Researchers believe the tuberculosis vaccine could help boost immunity to Covid-19.

Thousands of people around the world are being recruited for trials to investigate whether the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine could help fight the disease until a tailored jab is found.

The TB vaccine has previously been shown to reduce susceptibility to a range of diseases caused by viruses.

Experimental Regeneron treatment

FILE PHOTO: President Donald Trump pulls off his protective face mask as he poses atop the Truman Balcony of the White House after returning from being hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center, October 5, 2020.  REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

Donald Trump was provided a dose of drug maker Regeneron’s experimental antibody treatment.

Still in clinical trials, the new antiviral antibody cocktail works by binding to a protein on the surface of the virus.

It is meant to stop the virus from attaching to cells and replicating, while still allowing the immune system to fight back.


The antiviral drug was originally developed to treat hepatitis C but was recently used in the recent Ebola outbreak.

It works by attacking the virus once it’s already inside the body.

Considered an effective treatment, the drug is a “broad-spectrum” antiviral and it works against a range of viruses.


PERTH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 20: A clinical staff member holds a BCG vial and syringe in the trial clinic at Sir Charles Gairdner hospital on April 20, 2020 in Perth, Australia. Healthcare workers in Western Australia are participating in a new trial to test whether an existing tuberculosis vaccine can help reduce their chances of contracting COVID-19. 2000 frontline staff from Fiona Stanley, Sir Charles Gairdner and Perth Children's Hospital are taking part in the research trial, which will see half of participants receiving the existing Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine in addition to their flu vaccine, while the other half receive the regular flu shot. The BCG vaccine was originally developed to work against tuberculosis, but it is hoped it might help reduce the chance of contracting coronavirus as well as lessen the severity of symptoms and boost immunity in the long term. The BRACE trial is being led by by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

The steroid reduces inflammation by mimicking anti-inflammatory hormones produced by the body.

Coronavirus infection triggers inflammation as the body tries to fight it off, but sometimes the immune system goes into overdrive and it's this reaction that can prove fatal.


The malaria medication was touted by Mr Trump as a Covid-19 treatment but health authorities were quick to dismiss the medication as ineffective.

US Food and Drug Administration cautioned against using the drug to treat coronavirus patients, following reports of "serious heart rhythm problems" and other health issues.