The novel coronavirus has become a full-blown epidemic. It has affected every nation on the planet, and is having a serious impact here in the United States. While there has naturally been a significant focus on prevention and flattening the curve so as not to overload the medical infrastructure, there has been little information about the recovery process, what patients should expect, and the various tools and techniques that can improve someone’s chances of defeating COVID-19 in its more serious incarnations.
Do All Cases Require Medical Attention?
No, many cases do not require any type of medical attention. In fact, if you are not part of a high-risk group and are experiencing symptoms, most doctors will recommend that you stay at home and avoid contact with people for the duration of your symptoms. In all, 80% of those infected with the coronavirus will develop mild to moderate symptoms, usually consisting of a fever and a dry cough.
Is There Medical Treatment Available?
No, there is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19. However, there are treatment options that can help make the management of symptoms easier, and severe cases may require admission to a hospital where a ventilator or other oxygen therapy device may be available.
What Is the Recovery Process Like?
The recovery process for COVID-19 varies significantly from patient to patient. Some patients will experience no symptoms at all but are still contagious for one to two weeks. For patients with mild to moderate symptoms, it may take two weeks to recover. For severe cases, it may take six to eight weeks for recovery. Note that in about 1% of cases, COVID-19 is fatal.
The vast majority of patients who contract COVID-19 will not experience extreme symptoms. The recovery, while slow, will be complete, or near complete. For those in high-risk groups, including the elderly, those with preexisting heart conditions or heart disease, cancer patients, and others with compromised immune systems, the recovery process will be longer and will likely require at least some hospitalization.
Is It Safe to Go in Public After I’ve Recovered?
With most viruses, you are no longer contagious after recovery. That may not be the case with COVID-19. There is some evidence that the coronavirus is still present in patients after they have recovered, so it may be necessary to remain in self-quarantine for some time after symptoms have disappeared.
COVID-19 may cause mild to moderate symptoms, but for many people, it begins a cascade of problems that culminate in serious threats to their health. Pneumonia is one of the most common progression paths, particularly for older patients. Some of the most severe cases will be patients with ARDS, which is often fatal.
The Potential of Stem Cell Therapy for Treating Severe COVID-19
While the bulk of patients affected by COVID-19 will have symptoms that can be easily managed at home, that is not true for some. Those who fall into the CDC’s high-risk group will very likely require medical treatment, up to and including hospitalization and being placed on oxygen therapy.
For these patients, COVID-19 can be incredibly frightening. Oxygen therapy, anti-viral medications, and other treatments can help to alleviate some discomfort while the illness runs its course. However, stem cell therapy may also have an important role to play.
Stem cells are the body’s building blocks, but they are also the cornerstone of our ability to heal and repair ourselves. Stem cells can transform into any type of tissue necessary, from bone to red blood cells, and that includes lung tissue. This is important news for patients struggling with COVID-19-related pneumonia or ARDS.
For instance, in a study on the effects of allogeneic stem cells in treating ARDS published in Respiratory Research in 2014, the authors stated
“There were no infusion toxicities or serious adverse events related to MSCs administration and there were no significant differences in the overall number of adverse events between the two groups. Length of hospital stay, ventilator-free days and ICU-free days at day 28 after treatment were similar. There were no changes in biomarkers examined in the placebo group. In the MSCs group, serum SP-D levels at day 5 were significantly lower than those at day 0 (p = 0.027) while the changes in IL-8 levels were not significant. The IL-6 levels at day 5 showed a trend towards lower levels as compared with day 0, but this trend was not statistically significant (p = 0.06).”
Stem cell therapy may offer hope and benefits for high-risk patients struggling with COVID-19 related disease due to the ways that stem cells work within the body. One of the most important is the anti-inflammatory capabilities on offer. In patients with pneumonia or ARDS, inflammation is a serious complication that causes distress, but can also lead to death. Stem cells reduce inflammation throughout the lungs and airways, helping patients maximize oxygenation, combatting shortness of breath, and more.
Another benefit of stem cells in combatting serious COVID-19 cases is their healing and regenerative capabilities. Scar tissue formation within the lungs causes additional breathing problems. However, stem cells can heal and regenerate damaged tissue, reducing or even eliminating scar tissue formation.
Stem cell therapy may prove to be an essential treatment for COVID-19 recovery, at least for those who are within the CDC’s high-risk group. However, stem cells may be able to provide benefits even for those who are not highly susceptible, by boosting their immune system and allowing them to fight back against the novel coronavirus.
With that being said, it is important that patients receive stem cell therapy using allogeneic stem cells, rather than autologous stem cells. Allogeneic cells are sourced from umbilical cord blood and tissue. These cells are highly energetic, free of mutations that might cause a negative immune system response and are able to diversify and spread throughout the body quickly.
However, it is important for patients to understand that all stem cell therapies are considered experimental and must not be used instead of the regular treatments, as the FDA has not yet approved any.