Visualizing How COVID-19 Antiviral Pills and Vaccines Work
Connect with us

Healthcare

Visualizing How COVID-19 Antiviral Pills and Vaccines Work at the Cellular Level

Published

on

View the full-size infographic

Can I share this graphic?
Yes. Visualizations are free to share and post in their original form across the web—even for publishers. Please link back to this page and attribute Visual Capitalist.
When do I need a license?
Licenses are required for some commercial uses, translations, or layout modifications. You can even whitelabel our visualizations. Explore your options.
Interested in this piece?
Click here to license this visualization.

Current Strategies to Tackle COVID-19

Since the pandemic started in 2020, a number of therapies have been developed to combat COVID-19.

The leading options for preventing infection include social distancing, mask-wearing, and vaccination. They are still recommended during the upsurge of the coronavirus’s latest mutation, the Omicron variant.

But in December 2021, The United States Food and Drug Administration (USDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization to two experimental pills for the treatment of new COVID-19 cases.

These medications, one made by Pfizer and the other by Merck & Co., hope to contribute to the fight against the coronavirus and its variants. Alongside vaccinations, they may help to curb extreme cases of COVID-19 by reducing the need for hospitalization.

Despite tackling the same disease, vaccines and pills work differently:

VaccinesPills
Taken by injectionTaken by mouth
Used for prevention Used for treatment only
Create an enhanced immune system by stimulating antibody productionDisrupt the assembly of new viral particles

How a Vaccine Helps Prevent COVID-19

The main purpose of a vaccine is to prewarn the body of a potential COVID-19 infection by creating antibodies that target and destroy the coronavirus.

In order to do this, the immune system needs an antigen.

It’s difficult to do this risk-free since all antigens exist directly on a virus. Luckily, vaccines safely expose antigens to our immune systems without the dangerous parts of the virus.

In the case of COVID-19, the coronavirus’s antigen is the spike protein that covers its outer surface. Vaccines inject antigen-building instructions* and use our own cellular machinery to build the coronavirus antigen from scratch.

When exposed to the spike protein, the immune system begins to assemble antigen-specific antibodies. These antibodies wait for the opportunity to attack the real spike protein when a coronavirus enters the body. Since antibodies decrease over time, booster immunizations help to maintain a strong line of defense.

*While different vaccine technologies exist, they all do a similar thing: introduce an antigen and build a stronger immune system.

How COVID Antiviral Pills Work

Antiviral pills, unlike vaccines, are not a preventative strategy. Instead, they treat an infected individual experiencing symptoms from the virus.

Two drugs are now entering the market. Merck & Co.’s Lagevrio®, composed of one molecule, and Pfizer’s Paxlovid®, composed of two.

These medications disrupt specific processes in the viral assembly line to choke the virus’s ability to replicate.

The Mechanism of Molnupiravir

RNA-dependent RNA Polymerase (RdRp) is a cellular component that works similar to a photocopying machine for the virus’s genetic instructions. An infected host cell is forced to produce RdRp, which starts generating more copies of the virus’s RNA.

Molnupiravir, developed by Merck & Co., is a polymerase inhibitor. It inserts itself into the viral instructions that RdRp is copying, jumbling the contents. The RdRp then produces junk.

The Mechanism of Nirmatrelvir + Ritonavir

A replicating virus makes proteins necessary for its survival in a large, clumped mass called a polyprotein. A cellular component called a protease cuts a virus’s polyprotein into smaller, workable pieces.

Pfizer’s antiviral medication is a protease inhibitor made of two pills:

  1. The first pill, nirmatrelvir, stops protease from cutting viral products into smaller pieces.
  2. The second pill, ritonavir, protects nirmatrelvir from destruction by the body and allows it to keep working.

With a faulty polymerase or a large, unusable polyprotein, antiviral medications make it difficult for the coronavirus to replicate. If treated early enough, they can lessen the virus’s impact on the body.

The Future of COVID Antiviral Pills and Medications

Antiviral medications seem to have a bright future ahead of them.

COVID-19 antivirals are based on early research done on coronaviruses from the 2002-04 SARS-CoV and the 2012 MERS-CoV outbreaks. Current breakthroughs in this technology may pave the way for better pharmaceuticals in the future.

One half of Pfizer’s medication, ritonavir, currently treats many other viruses including HIV/AIDS.

Gilead Science is currently developing oral derivatives of remdesivir, another polymerase inhibitor currently only offered to inpatients in the United States.

More coronavirus antivirals are currently in the pipeline, offering a glimpse of control on the looming presence of COVID-19.

Author’s Note: The medical information in this article is an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please talk to your doctor before undergoing any treatment for COVID-19. If you become sick and believe you may have symptoms of COVID-19, please follow the CDC guidelines.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments

Healthcare

Visualized: The Global Syringe Shortage Threatening Vaccine Efforts

Published

on

The following content is sponsored by NuGen Medical Devices

The Global Syringe Shortage Threatening Vaccine Efforts

Routine vaccination saves millions of lives every single year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

But even though global vaccination coverage is improving, closing the gap in immunization has led to skyrocketing demand for syringes—which is forecast to result in a major shortage that could make matters worse.

In the above infographic from NuGen Medical Devices, we explore the factors leading to the syringe shortage and take a look at the company’s innovative needle-free solution that could play an important role in closing the immunization gap.

The Immunization Gap

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people around the world struggled to get access to routine vaccinations.

In fact, as of 2019 more than 19 million children around the world were considered to be “zero-dose” which means that they did not receive any routine vaccinations.

Moreover, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, global immunization dropped even further with 25 million children missing out on routine vaccines in 2021 alone.

Why is Immunization So Important?

Vaccinations prevent against over 20 life-threatening diseases and save between 2-3 million deaths per year, making them—as the WHO describes—the foundation of healthcare systems and an indisputable human right.

As countries work through a backlog of vaccinations to close the immunization gap that has worsened since the pandemic, demand for syringes has significantly increased.

The Result: A Global Syringe Deficit

In 2022, the WHO warned that we could see a shortage of up to 2 billion syringes if manufacturing can’t keep up. This could result in the severe disruption to routine vaccinations and promote unsafe recycling of syringes in order to administer vaccines.

But the issue goes far beyond a supply shortage of syringes. COVID-19 has brought conventional syringe vaccines into sharp focus, with many criticizing the challenges associated with them.

The Challenge
Vaccine Hesitancy:
1 in 10 Americans have an extreme fear of needles and therefore will avoid vaccination.
Affordability:
The cost of essential syringe vaccination makes them inaccessible for people living in low and middle income countries.
Cost of Logistics:
Geographical constrains, a lack of infrastructure, and the need to keep vaccines at sub-zero temperatures prevent them from reaching those who need it the most.
Biohazardous Waste:
7.8 billion needles are discarded in the U.S. every year.
The Solution
Reduce Fear:
Needle-free devices remove the fear of syringes.
Reduce Costs:
Needle-free devices are lower in cost per injection compared to conventional needles.
Minimizes Cold Chain:
NuGen MD’s next generation powder injectables minimize the need for a cold chain (keeping vaccines at sub-zero temperatures) entirely.
Sustainable Needles:
Needle-free technology reduces environmental waste significantly.

With conventional needles facing so many challenges, it’s no surprise that investors are taking interest in viable alternatives. What’s more, these alternatives don’t just apply to vaccinations, they can also work for people with diabetes, dentists, and pet care.

Enter Needle-free Devices from NuGen MD

Needle-free devices have the potential to bridge the gap in immunization amid the global syringe shortage, solve some of the key challenges limiting vaccine uptake, and more importantly, benefit the lives of millions of people.

How Do They Work?

NuGen’s needle-free devices use a simple spring-loaded mechanism which uses pressure to release the liquid drug and penetrate the skin. In less than one-tenth of a second, the drug is dispensed more safely and evenly compared to needle syringes. It’s also virtually painless and leaves no mark on the skin.

>>>Interested in investing in NuGen Medical Devices? To learn more about their plans to pioneer the future of needle-free drug delivery, click this link now.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments

You may also like

Subscribe

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Popular