Health disasters and progress in Medicine


By Dr. Javier Rivera | Feb. 27, 2021 | Posts in English

Many of the health catastrophes that have been experienced in other times have made Medicine advance considerably.

Wars, especially the last world wars, managed to improve surgical techniques, the treatment of surgical infections or perfected general anesthesia.

AIDS, caused by HIV, and which was also a pandemic, led to a deeper understanding of the immune system and, on the other hand, to the development of highly effective antiviral drugs to control or treat some viral infections that were previously fatal . For example, AIDS itself or hepatitis C. The first one is still not cured, but it is controlled very well with the antiviral drugs that we have; the second, it is completely cured, to the point that today the eradication of this infection is an achievable goal.

The spectacular development that cancer therapy has had in recent years is largely a consequence of the knowledge acquired about the immune system, initially promoted by research on HIV. Today, a new therapy is available, cancer immunotherapy, which is allowing spectacular results to be achieved in some types of cancer for which previously there were very poor solutions.

We are still experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic and it is early to know if Medicine is going to be able to take advantage of this health disaster.

But you have to think so, as we have seen on the occasions that I have mentioned before and, in my opinion, I think that some interesting aspects are already being seen.

To begin with, the development of vaccines against the coronavirus has been done in a record time of less than a year. Let us think that there are vaccines that have been in the development phase for years and are not yet ready or are not very effective, such as the malaria vaccine. If this disease had the same social impact as COVID-19, and the same effort had been dedicated to it, we would probably have had a good vaccine for it a long time ago and it would have been eradicated by now.

Most importantly, the current COVID-19 situation has clearly shown that it is possible to make these highly effective vaccines, you just have to put your mind to it.

The pathogenic mechanisms through which the coronavirus causes disease are also being extensively investigated, and advances in this field will one day make it possible to manufacture drugs or molecules to combat the coronavirus itself and probably other viruses as well.

Another aspect that is already giving a lot to talk about, and that will continue to do so due to the large number of people affected (10% of patients who have passed the infection), is the persistent COVID-19 that we already saw in the previous article of this blog (click here).

In this disease, the symptoms of significant fatigue, general malaise, diffuse pain, sleep disturbances, cognitive disorders or mood disturbances are indicating an affectation of the central nervous system, which in this case can be clearly related to infection by the coronavirus.

Until now, this pathogenic mechanism that we call central sensitization had not been given much importance (despite how frequent it is), and now, precisely because of the appearance of persistent COVID-19, there is no choice but to take it into account to explain what is happening to these patients.

In central sensitization, there is no clear evidence of direct infection by the virus, but there is evidence of an inflammatory process within the central nervous system or neuroinflammation that would explain the symptoms of persistent COVID-19.

These symptoms of persistent COVID-19 are the same as those also presented by patients with myalgic encephalitis or chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and some other syndromes such as chronic migraine, irritable bowel syndrome or multiple chemical sensitivity, among the most common , so it can be deduced that the pathogenic mechanisms involved are the same.

This COVID-19 catastrophe will have these and hopefully other positive effects for society as a whole. Probably one of the groups that will benefit the most are patients with all these types of syndromes, because from now on the mechanisms involved that are producing the symptoms in these patients will be better understood.

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