A prospect on the use of antiviral drugs to control local outbreaks of COVID-19

Andrea Torneri, Pieter Libin, Joris Vanderlocht, Anne Mieke Vandamme, Johan Neyts, Niel Hens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Current outbreaks of COVID-19 are threatening the health care systems of several countries around the world. Control measures, based on isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine, can decrease and delay the burden of the ongoing epidemic. With respect to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, recent modeling work shows that these interventions may be inadequate to control local outbreaks, even when perfect isolation is assumed. The effect of infectiousness prior to symptom onset combined with asymptomatic infectees further complicates the use of contact tracing. We aim to study whether antivirals, which decrease the viral load and reduce infectiousness, could be integrated into control measures in order to augment the feasibility of controlling the epidemic. Methods: Using a simulation-based model of viral transmission, we tested the efficacy of different intervention measures to control local COVID-19 outbreaks. For individuals that were identified through contact tracing, we evaluate two procedures: monitoring individuals for symptoms onset and testing of individuals. Additionally, we investigate the implementation of an antiviral compound combined with the contact tracing process. Results: For an infectious disease in which asymptomatic and presymptomatic infections are plausible, an intervention measure based on contact tracing performs better when combined with testing instead of monitoring, provided that the test is able to detect infections during the incubation period. Antiviral drugs, in combination with contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation, result in a significant decrease of the final size and the peak incidence, and increase the probability that the outbreak will fade out. Conclusion: In all tested scenarios, the model highlights the benefits of control measures based on the testing of traced individuals. In addition, the administration of an antiviral drug, together with quarantine, isolation, and contact tracing, is shown to decrease the spread of the epidemic. This control measure could be an effective strategy to control local and re-emerging outbreaks of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number191
Pages (from-to)191-200
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2020


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