Working around the clock to find a COVID-19 cure or treatment: Part 3

Treating a disease that affects people of all ages and health backgrounds in different ways is no simple feat. ABC News’ Diane Sawyer talks to scientists in the race for a cure.
8:33 | 05/27/20

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Transcript for Working around the clock to find a COVID-19 cure or treatment: Part 3
Reporter: As of tonight, the whole world is in a fierce fight against a virus and think of these people as our jedi warriors, mobilized, ready to take action. I believe that we will win Reporter: I've been talking to dozens of scientists who are staying up all night in their labs, trying to find the treatment and the vaccine. This is an assault on humanity. Round the clock. Seven days a week, for our patients who are trusting us. What is the next step? What do I need to do next that could help our country get through this crisis? Reporter: One scientist, this doctor, called in a team to perform an olympic event. Analyze 7,000 studies, 18,000 patients, 161 treatments, to find out which ones are starting to work. He skips meals, steals a few minutes with his daughter in his office, and shares his findings with everyone. From California, I talked to the legendary scientist who co-invented the ground-breaking tool crispr, something new that could fix diseases right in your genes. She has now turned her whole lab toward covid testing. As of tonight, they're providing virus tests to people who may have been left behind so far -- nursing home residents, firefighters, those experiencing homelessness. I saw a sign that someone had held through the window for you and your teams and it said thank you, sincerely, the people of Berkeley and the whole world. As you know, Diane, this is an urgent need around America and globally right now to understand how widespread this virus is. And to help people who might be infected to get the cure they need. Reporter: And since we know the holy grail is a vaccine that prevents people from getting the illness, how fast can it happen? Keep in mind, in history, the fastest time from identifying a virus to having a vaccine has been years. It took four years for mumps. As of tonight, scientists are trying to do it in a fraction of the time. And regular people are trying to help, by offering their bodies to help test if it works. At least ten human vaccine trials are already under way in the world. The injection site feels like I got a pretty good punch. I don't want to be sitting down not doing anything when I could potentially help out. This was a way that I could feel useful instead of useless. Reporter: And as we know, until there's a safe vaccine, we have only our primitive tools to prevent contracting the virus -- the first, of course, social distancing. We've now learned that 35% of people who could be spreading the virus may display no symptoms at all, which is a reason we're told to stay at least six feet away. But if someone decides to sneeze, what good does six feet a cloud of particles, which may or may not contain the virus, can spread as far as 26 feet. And we saw that Chinese study of a woman with no symptoms in a crowded restaurant with no windows. She spread the virus to nine people around her, as far as 15 feet away, droplets in her breath possibly carried by the slipstream of the air conditioner. And over the months, so much confusion about masks. You can increase your risk of getting coronavirus by wearing a mask. I wear my face covering to protect you. And you wear yours to protect me. And we don't want people to get an artificial sense of protection. Reporter: We even watched the vice president go to the mayo clinic and not follow their policy to wear a mask. Then two days later, there he is at a factory, in a mask. And if you still don't think a mask could make a difference, take a look at this video. This is how much we spray saliva at each other in our everyday conversations. Stay healthy. Reporter: Put a mask on? That spray is dramatically different. Stay health! Reporter: Here it is again without the mask. Stay healthy. Stay healthy. Reporter: And we know as the symptoms spread, they're a kind of Russian roulette -- ranging from the strange. Swollen, painful discolorations of the tips of my toes. Reporter: Loss of taste and smell. Shaking and other symptoms that are very severe. Do I want to die suffocating and then going into cardiac arrest? Reporter: The virus can apparently bring on inflammation of blood vessels, causing strokes in healthy adults and implicated in that rare syndrome we've seen in children. And right now, there are two types of treatments that have shown real promise, but both are administered through ivs and both are for patients in the hospital. One is remdesivir and then there are the antibodies that appear in people who have fought off the disease. Someone who has recovered gives blood. It's separated into plasma. Here's the plasma, think of it as liquid gold with antibodies in it. In as little as three weeks, one company already making antibodies in their lab will begin testing to see if their antibodies can prevent or treat covid. But once again, it's all of us now heeding the call for each other. It started in the amazing lab of Dr. Florian Krammer and his team at mt. Sinai. You can see some of these change colors. Reporter: They identified those golden antibodies and the headline tonight is that plasma do seem to work in some patients. We want to study if these antibodies can neutralize or block the virus. Reporter: We tracked down the first person in New York who was asked to be a plasma donor and she could not have said yes faster. She was the first one, I almost cried when I called her. She was so generous and, like, so quick to go in and donate. Reporter: Tiffany pinckney, single mom who works with the homeless. Well, I think you are a superwoman. Thank you so much, Ms. Sawyer. I am truly humbled by this experience. We all kind of need each other right now, and so I just pray this works. We now know the patient she donated to is doing well. It was not painful at all and I would definitely recommend or encourage anyone who had the coronavirus and has beat it to go and volunteer to give your blood, to see if you could potentially help people. Reporter: And across the country, thousands of other people have stepped up to donate. Like this man, James crocker, who had recovered from covid and saw a prayerful post on the internet about a patient who was in big trouble, so crocker got in his car and drove two hours to the one blood donation center in Florida to see if he qualified to help that stranger in the icu. He donated, he was a match, and four days later, something happened in that hospital room. We love you, dad. Come on home, baby. Love you, daddy. He's crying? Oh, baby, I see you. I see you. Reporter: After 19 days in the hospital, that patient Kevin Rathel came home. Friends and neighbors waiting for him. And his plasma donor, too. One day, two days, five days, could make the difference. So get out there, donate, and let's go make a difference. Reporter: It's the message of pitbull with his famous anthem for this moment. I believe that we will win Reminding us, as someone said, obstacles to the path are just the path. And one of the nation's foremost scientists told me, we are going to learn something from this crisis and use it to thrive. Is there, from your study of history and literature and humanity, is there one sentence that always seems the most powerful to you for giving hope? Think that we'll beat this. I think that when this is all over, when generations look back, they will see that humanity rose up to the moment and generated a better world.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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