COVID-19 has emerged as one of the greatest challenges in medical history, with rising urgency for the discovery of effective and safe treatment. As cases of infections continue to escalate in many countries, healthcare institutions across the globe are trying to find effective drugs and vaccines to fight against the coronavirus. COVID-19 clinical trials have been progressing at an unprecedented pace. As the state of treatments evolves rapidly, social listening can help us stay abreast of the latest developments.
Netscribes examined the Twitter conversations around COVID-19 clinical trials to track and understand the latest developments. We categorized the conversations by Drugs, Vaccines, and Therapy/Treatments, analyzed which treatments in those categories generated the maximum buzz, and how they ranked in terms of volume and sentiment. Here’s what we found:
Drug trials were the most talked-about treatment category
We recorded over 179k conversations related to COVID-19 clinical trials. Of these, a majority concentrated on drug trials, followed by vaccines.
Conversations about drug trials generated the most buzz across Twitter. Most of these conversations were around the clinical trials of Remdesivir, Chloroquine, and Hydroxychloroquine drugs.
Conversations around this drug trial mainly included information and updates from Gilead’s Remdesivir trials, which previously failed as a treatment for Ebola.
- Around mid-April, a Chicago clinical trial showed patients recovering quickly from fever and respiratory symptoms.
- During the 3rd week, results from the first randomized clinical trial in China indicated that Remdesivir failed.
- Towards the end of April, results from Gilead’s Phase 3 trial showed a mortality rate with treatment to be about 10%, with similar results from the US NIAID’s trial.
These conversations were mainly around the failure of anti-malaria drug Chloroquine.
- Swedish hospitals abandon the trial of chloroquine after it caused blinding headaches, vision loss, and agonizing cramps in patients.
- Brazil stopped the trial for Chloroquine after 11 patients died due to overdosing.
Many conversations included criticism against US President Donald Trump for promoting the drug.
Vaccine trials in the UK and US
Several research institutions are working towards accelerating the development of vaccines against COVID-19. Of these, vaccine trials in the UK led by the University of Oxford and Imperial College Healthcare Trust generated the highest buzz across Twitter.
UK Trials for COVID-19:
The University of Oxford began human trials for its COVID-19 vaccine – the first of more than 800 organizations recruited for the study. Twitterati widely shared the beginning of Europe’s first human trial, with two volunteers being injected at Oxford. Many conversations mentioned that the vaccine could be ready by September, with manufacturing already underway. People welcomed the good news, as Oxford’s Research director claimed an 80% chance of success.
Tweets from Imperial College seeking healthy volunteers to participate in its vaccine trial were also highly retweeted.
US Trials for COVID-19:
US vaccine trials mainly included updates on the trials in Seattle, Kansas, and Pittsburgh. Volunteers in Seattle’s COVID-19 vaccine trial received a second round of shots, with tweets citing this as an indicator that the trial is progressing well. Tweets largely shared the news of US researchers beginning their second vaccine trial in Kansas. The University of Pittsburgh also joined the club of vaccine researchers to start human trials.
Blood plasma most talked-about in the therapy and treatments category
Along with drug and vaccine trials, a growing number of healthcare organizations are investigating other kinds of treatments such as antibody testing and blood plasma therapies.
Blood Plasma Therapy:
With news about blood plasma or convalescent plasma therapy being a potential solution to treat COVID-19 patients, this treatment has been a hot topic on social media. We observed that most conversations revolved around trials using blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors. During the analysis, trials beginning in the US, Canada, Japan, UK, and India took a major share of mentions.
Preliminary results show that cell-based therapy could help build immunity in severely ill patients. There have been reports of a few biopharma firms that are developing cell therapies to treat COVID-19 patients. This includes news of researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast, offering an innovative cell therapy treatment for patients with acute respiratory failure in a UK-wide COVID-19 clinical trial.
Millenials are the most-engaged audience
Our research showed that individuals aged between 25 to 34 were the most engaged group of people to topics related to COVID-19 clinical trials.
Key sentiment drivers
Topics ranging from poor results and failure of drug trials, adverse side-effects in patients, institutions abandoning ongoing trials, and comments/opinions shared around these developments mainly featured as negative.
Positive topics constituted the start of new trails, promising outcomes of vaccine trials, and related announcements.
Factual updates and news articles related to several ongoing COVID-19 clinical trials for new and existing drugs and vaccines drove neutral sentiment across Twitter.
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