Inside the frantic race to find a drug to fight coronavirus Scientists are testing whether existing FDA-approved drugs can fight novel coronavirus.
According to early research, an old malaria drug called chloroquine might also work for the new coronavirus.
Elon Musk seems to think so, recently tweeting that it “might be worth considering chloroquine” for COVID-19.
Although data are spare, studies so far seem to back up the billionaire entrepreneur’s suggestion.
Chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, has been used to treat malaria since 1944. It can be given before exposure to malaria to prevent infection, and it can also be given as treatment afterward.
Malaria is a disease that is caused by a parasite, unlike COVID-19.
Nevertheless, laboratory studies show chloroquine is effective at preventing as well as treating the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, a close cousin of COVID-19.
Given chloroquine’s effectiveness in treating SARS, scientists have investigated if it will be an effective treatment against the new coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. So far, the initial trials are encouraging.
“There is evidence that chloroquine is effective when they looked at SARS in vitro with primate cells,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist and internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“The theory of the experiment with primate cells was that chloroquine could be for preventing viral infection or as a treatment for viral infection after it had occurred. In vitro in these primate cells, there was evidence that viral particles were significantly reduced when chloroquine was used.”
Both the virus that causes SARS and the virus responsible for COVID-19 belong to the same overarching family of coronaviruses.
Researchers in China found that treating patients with COVID-19-associated pneumonia with chloroquine may shorten their hospital stay and improve the patient’s outcome.
There are more than 20 ongoing clinical trials in China and more scheduled to start in England, Thailand, South Korea and the United States.