During a pandemic, we all pin our hopes on medical workers: we expect from them both professional help and friendly participation. How do doctors deal with anxiety and the daily risk of getting sick? Our guest – Vera Petrovna Vavilova, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Chairman of the Regional Branch of the Public Organization “Union of Pediatricians of Russia” in the Kemerovo Region, member of the ERS (European Respiratory Society), EPA (European Pediatric Society), Chairman of the Pediatric Respiratory Society LLC… In June this year, Vera Petrovna and her colleagues conducted a scientific study examining the effectiveness of COVID-19 prevention among emergency medical personnel.
– Vera Petrovna, tell us about your research. Who participated in it?
– Our study was carried out in June 2020 at the Kemerovo State Medical University with the participation of 150 doctors and paramedics of emergency medical services. 100 of them received a prophylactic course of interferon preparations, the remaining 50 were in the control group and did not use such prophylaxis. The study participants were equally divided among men and women, about half were over 50 years old. And every second had chronic diseases: nasopharyngeal infections, lower respiratory tract infections, cardiovascular pathologies.
– What kind of preventive course was used?
– We investigated the effectiveness of the preparation of interferon alpha-2b in three forms: gel, ointment and suppositories (Viferon preparation). Gel and ointment as local dosage forms work at the “gate” of the infection, on the nasopharyngeal mucosa. Thanks to the gel base, the drug has a long-term effect. Suppositories were chosen as a systemic form (systemic – it has an effect on the body as a whole, as opposed to the local form, which works locally).
For four weeks, doctors treated the nasal mucosa three times a day with an ointment or gel containing interferon. The gel can be applied to the tonsils. And in addition, we prescribed rectal suppositories for them at a dosage of 1 million IU before the start of the work shift: the full prophylactic course was 10 suppositories for a month (1 suppository was used every third day before leaving for the work shift).
– Why interferon preparations?
– They have been used for the prevention of seasonal ARVI for many years, they are well studied, they managed to confirm their safety and effectiveness for any age. They have also shown their effectiveness on the example of previous pandemics: swine and bird flu. I cannot fail to note that since the start of the pandemic, interest in interferons has rapidly increased in the West: Chinese, European, British scientists publish their works on the use of these drugs in the treatment of COVID-19.
As clinical experience shows, after such a monthly combined course of interferon alfa (suppositories plus gel / ointment), the effect persists for another two to three months: the immunity of the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract and systemic immunity remain high.
– What results did you get?
– In the main group of participants who used interferon alpha-2b preparations (suppositories and gel / ointment) for a month, only one case of COVID-19 was recorded, and in a mild form. In the control group, which did not receive such prophylaxis, seven people fell ill, in two cases pneumonia developed.
And another very important point that we noted in the research results is the psychological state of the participants. The current pandemic is also special in that it has not only infectious, but also a powerful psychological effect on patients, which, of course, also affects immunity. Using special questionnaires, we assessed the dynamics of anxiety and depression in participants at the beginning and at the end of the study. Doctors are now working almost at the limit of their capabilities, their risk of infection is 3.5 times higher than in the general population. And, of course, doctors and paramedics had high rates of anxiety and depression. But after a month, we saw a positive trend in these parameters in the group that received Viferon (suppositories and gel). These data confirm that the sense of security that effective prevention provides can reduce anxiety and reduce depressed mood.
These results give grounds to say that interferon preparations can serve as a means for the prevention of coronavirus in medical workers in contact with patients with COVID-19. However, today everyone, without exception, needs effective protection, and I am glad that we have contributed to the study of the prevention of infection with this dangerous infection.
– Doctors are now most at risk of contracting COVID-19 while at work. Can the design from your study be used for other risk groups?
– Certainly. They can be used for the prevention of acute respiratory viral infections and the elderly, and children, and pregnant women. We must not forget that the risk of infection and severe disease is in all age groups and affects everyone, especially those who work or study in large teams. Now everyone needs prevention, because the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is largely unpredictable. According to the data of many national health services, 45% of those who have recovered from the disease, even after being discharged from the hospital, have a significantly reduced quality of life, they still need medical care and rehabilitation for a long time. I will repeat the well-known truth: it is better to prevent disease than to cure.
And, of course, it is important to follow simple rules to prevent the spread of infection: mask mode, distancing, hygiene. This will actually reduce the spread of the virus during the incubation period and in asymptomatic cases. Simple rules save lives!