• Scientists are racing to find ways to prevent and treat the novel coronavirus.
  • That includes developing vaccines to prevent the disease, as well as testing out new or repurposed medications in the hopes that they might help patients severely ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, recover.
  • Vaccines prepare the body’s immune system to fight off a disease, ideally preventing people from falling ill.
  • Treatments are typically used when patients are already sick with a certain disease, or sometimes as a way to prevent the onset of an illness.
  • There are a number of vaccines and treatments in development for the novel coronavirus.
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The world is racing to find ways to treat and prevent the novel coronavirus.

Both preventing and treating the disease, experts say, are critical to lessening social distancing measure that have been put in place to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

While we might never get back to the “normal life” we knew before the pandemic, getting out from under lockdown-like conditions will hinge greatly on whether a vaccine can be developed, and if we can get treatments that are effective in treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Vaccines are used to prepare the body’s immune system to fight off infections. They work by giving the body a small taste of what the virus is like so that way it can produce antibodies that fight off an intruding virus, ideally keeping people from falling ill. Some vaccines protect better than others, and they’re typically administered across broad populations.

There are vaccines for some infectious diseases, like the flu, smallpox, measles, and chickenpox. But others, like HIV and hepatitis C, don’t have vaccines that protect against them. Vaccines that protect against two other deadly outbreaks, MERS and SARS, have yet to be approved after the outbreaks subsided.

There are more than 70 potential coronavirus vaccines in the works, with a number in early human trials. Drugmakers are looking into ways to produce the billions of doses that might be needed to suppress the pandemic.

Read more: There are more than 70 potential coronavirus vaccines in the works. Here are the top efforts to watch, including the 16 vaccines set to be tested in people this year.

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FILE - In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, a vial of the investigational drug remdesivir is visually inspected at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. Given through an IV, the medication is designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material. (Gilead Sciences via AP)

Foto: FILE – In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, a vial of the investigational drug remdesivir is visually inspected at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. Given through an IV, the medication is designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material. (Gilead Sciences via AP) Source: Associated Press

Treatments, on the other hand, are meant to do just that: treat COVID-19, helping patients sickened by the virus survive and recover more quickly. Treatments for disease are there to lessen symptoms and ultimately improve the outcomes of a particular disease.

Sometimes, medications can be used preventatively. For instance, patients with high cholesterol might be prescribed a medication called a statin to prevent heart attacks. Some potential coronavirus treatments are being studied to see if they can prevent people from contracting the virus in the first place.

For COVID-19, researchers are testing everything from antimalarial medications to antivirals, to even common heartburn medications in hospitalized patients with the hopes that more patients will survive severe forms of the illness and potentially recover faster. Some are looking at ways to use patients’ own bodies to fight the virus with antibody treatments.

Read more: We just got more promising data on Gilead’s potential coronavirus drug. Here’s everything we know about remdesivir and 14 other leading coronavirus treatments.

On Wednesday, Gilead Sciences, a biotech company that makes remdesivir, one of the experimental treamtents being tested in coronavirus patients, said it had succeeded in a crucial study, raising hopes for the drug’s use in treating patients.

Treatments, especially for hospitalized patients, are critical to develop to provide more tools for doctors to treat the disease. Ultimately, as social distancing measures lessen, it’ll keep hospitals from being overrun with patients who tend to be hospitalized for weeks.

Read more: Here’s how 13 top drugmakers are sprinting to develop a coronavirus vaccine or treatment that can halt this pandemic