COVID-19 Evidence Alerts
from McMaster PLUSTM

Current best evidence for clinical care (more info)

Treatment Zhong H, Wang Y, Zhang ZL, et al. Efficacy and safety of current therapeutic options for COVID-19 - lessons to be learnt from SARS and MERS epidemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pharmacol Res. 2020 Jul;157:104872. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2020.104872. Epub 2020 Apr 30.

The rapidly progressing of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has become a global concern. This meta-analysis aimed at evaluating the efficacy and safety of current option of therapies for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) besides COVID-19, in an attempt to identify promising therapy for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infected patients. We searched PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), China Science and Technology Journal Database (VIP), and WANFANG DATA for randomized controlled trials (RCTs), prospective cohort, and retrospective cohort studies that evaluated therapies (hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir-based therapy, and ribavirin-based therapy, etc.) for SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. The primary outcomes were mortality, virological eradication and clinical improvement, and secondary outcomes were improvement of symptoms and chest radiography results, incidence of acute respiratory disease syndrome (ARDS), utilization of mechanical ventilation, and adverse events (AEs). Summary relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using random-effects models, and the quality of evidence was appraised using GRADEpro. Eighteen articles (5 RCTs, 2 prospective cohort studies, and 11 retrospective cohort studies) involving 4,941 patients were included. Compared with control treatment, anti-coronary virus interventions significantly reduced mortality (RR 0.65, 95% CI 0.44-0.96; I2 = 81.3%), remarkably ameliorate clinical improvement (RR 1.52, 95% CI 1.05-2.19) and radiographical improvement (RR 1.62, 95% CI 1.11-2.36, I2 = 11.0 %), without manifesting clear effect on virological eradication, incidence of ARDS, intubation, and AEs. Subgroup analyses demonstrated that the combination of ribavirin and corticosteroids remarkably decreased mortality (RR 0.43, 95% CI 0.27-0.68). The lopinavir/ritonavir-based combination showed superior virological eradication and radiographical improvement with reduced rate of ARDS. Likewise, hydroxychloroquine improved radiographical result. For safety, ribavirin could induce more bradycardia, anemia and transaminitis. Meanwhile, hydroxychloroquine could increase AEs rate especially diarrhea. Overall, the quality of evidence on most outcomes were very low. In conclusion, although we could not draw a clear conclusion for the recommendation of potential therapies for COVID-19 considering the very low quality of evidence and wide heterogeneity of interventions and indications, our results may help clinicians to comprehensively understand the advantages and drawbacks of each anti-coronavirus agents on efficacy and safety profiles. Lopinavir/ritonavir combinations might observe better virological eradication capability than other anti-coronavirus agents. Conversely, ribavirin might cause more safety concerns especially bradycardia. Thus, large RCTs objectively assessing the efficacy of antiviral therapies for SARS-CoV-2 infections should be conducted with high priority.

Discipline / Specialty Area Score
Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP)
Emergency Medicine
General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)
Infectious Disease
Intensivist/Critical Care
Public Health
Comments from MORE raters

Emergency Medicine rater

It's useful to have a paper confirm that we really do not know what therapy is safe and efficacious.

Public Health rater

This article confirms that therapeutic options are still lacking strong evidence.

Public Health rater

The manuscript is well-written and presented. No major grammar errors have been found. There is a correct sub-division of paragraphs and the paper flow is clear and linear. Overall, this article represents an important advancement in the field, especially for such a crucial topic as COVID-19.