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Infectious Disease Specialist On Coronavirus

Dr. Peter Gulick photo
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Dr. Peter Gulick of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. Peter Gulick is an infectious disease specialist with the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. Like many experts, he’s monitoring developments regarding the spread of the novel Coronavirus and the treatment of those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. WKAR’s Scott Pohl talks with Dr. Gulick about progress he sees in testing, and some promising treatments.

SCOTT POHL: Let's talk first of all about your assessment of where we stand in Michigan with regard to testing for the novel coronavirus.

DR. PETER GULICK: As you know, we seem to be changing the ratings as far as where we are in the country, but the last I heard we’re between third and fourth in the country as far as number of cases that have been reported in Michigan, so I think we're doing many more tests now. We're finding more individuals.

One of the things I wanted to mention is that we're getting better testing technology. What I mean by that is a company called Abbott Pharmaceuticals just was FDA approved for a new test they're doing, which is a test that can be done in the office. It's a machine that can be brought into the office and can be done in health care centers, offices. The test can actually give you results within five to ten minutes as far as a positive test, and then the negative test only takes 13 to 14 minutes. By doing this, the testing ability is going to be much much better as far as being able to test and not have to wait three days, four days, 10 days, but be given that test result before you leave the office.

POHL: Do you think we're making progress when it comes to treatment of patients, or the therapies that people who test positive are receiving or can receive?

GULICK: There's different types of treatments that are being looked at right now. There's treatments with antivirals and remdesivir, which is one of the drugs that is made by Gilead Pharmaceuticals. It works right on the virus itself. It's a RNA dependent RNA polymerase inhibitor, and it was used in the past for ebola. It was looked at in vitro for both MERS and SARS, and it seemed to have some activity. Now they're doing some trials. The University of Nebraska has some, and they have some different sites around the country and then even in other countries, China, etc. They're looking at it. So that's one treatment.

Another antiviral that I know all too well is actually used for HIV patients. It's called kaletra. It's a protease inhibitor, and it was actually used in a small trial in China I believe. Unfortunately, the outcome was not good, they didn't really find that it was beneficial. The drug was used in the highly advanced patients that were very very sick, that were on ventilators, so they want to relook at this drug, the World Health Organization as well as others. It's just like any other disease, sometimes it's the timing of order you use these drugs versus the effectiveness. Just like an antibiotic many times, you're using it in somebody that’s in septic shock, it may not work, but you use it early on, and it's much more effective.

One of the interesting things that I was thinking about is that a good portion of my patients that I take care of are on protease inhibitors, not kaletra, but another one that's just as good if not better called prezista. That drug also is effective against HIV, obviously, but wouldn't it be interesting to see what the incidence of those patients on that drug as far as them acquiring coronavirus? Would it be almost like a pre-exposure prophylaxis? These are all things I'm just throwing out, but these are things that we're looking at.

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