COVID-19: promising treatments begin to emerge

COVID-19: promising treatments begin to emerge

While the majority of patients infected with COVID-19 will not require treatment, there is new hope for those that do go on to become seriously ill.

A few treatments developed for other illnesses are showing promise, says Clinical Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases Physician Dr Bernard Hudson.

“The biggest problem with this outbreak is that people are scared. They think ‘if I get sick there’s nothing that I can be treated with’. That’s not the case. We are entering a phase where we’ve got a bit more information and we can reassure people that there is some treatment.”

According to a soon-to-be-released paper, malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine has been found to be more potent than chloroquine in inhibiting COVID-19.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine interfere with the acidification of the lysosomes and some of the membrane systems inside the cell, according to Dr Hudson.

“They thought well, maybe this would work for SARS. And in fact in vitro it does actually inhibit replication of the SARS coronavirus. And the good thing is, is this is at clinically-achievable concentrations.”

In the last year since this virus turned up, he says, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have drawn interest and it helps that they have been in use for 50 years or more.

“So it has been put forward that hydroxychloroquine or Plaquenil is a widely available drug that has both anti-inflammatory activities and antiviral activities and appears to be more potent than chloroquine at inhibiting the SARS coronavirus. In some of the places where they’ve had significant outbreaks, including both China and Italy, it has actually formed part of the treatment for people who need treatment.”

“The biggest thing to remember is that most people do not need treatment. We’re still trying to work out who needs treatment, both clinically, biochemically or on imaging. The drug Remdesivir or Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir), an HIV drug… you would probably combine that with Plaquenil, and that’s the way most people are thinking.”

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