Can Anti-Malarial Drugs Cure COVID-19?

Author:Singleton, Marilyn M.

While on lockdown to save our neighbors from a lonely death from the disease called COVID-19, many of us have turned to movies. I beg you not to view "Pandemic," "Contagion," or "28 Days Later." Try "Harriet" instead. Harriet Tubman was the epitome of bravery and courage in the face of insurmountable odds. Her escape from slavery and returning again and again into the belly of the beast to save others should inspire us all.

The health professionals working day and night to care for an ever increasing number of sick patients make me proud to be a doctor, and kudos to the grocery store workers, postal employees, police, and many others who are performing essential jobs with a smile.

This is the time for positive action, not panic. For background, coronaviruses are a big family of RNA viruses named for the crown-like spikes found on their surface, causing mostly upper respiratory tract infections ("common colds") in adults. This new coronavirus is in the same family as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) identified in humans in 2002 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) identified in 2012. The COVID-19 virus is called SARS-CoV-2 for its similarity to SARS-CoV.

While scientists furiously are experimenting with possible vaccines, the virus is sprinting from country to country despite travel restrictions. So, if COVID-19 is here for a while, the world has to look to effective treatments of afflicted individuals today--not a year from now. Some researchers seem to have uncovered a strong contender.

Separate studies from a major medical center in France and jointly from South Korea and China have found that inexpensive, readily available anti-malarial drugs chloroquine phosphate or hydroxychloroquine are an effective treatment.

In 2004, separately a Belgian virologist and our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that chloroquine inhibited SARSCoV growth in primate cells when given before or after exposure to the virus. Human trials could not be done because thankfully the SARS epidemic had just ended.

Fast forward to February 2020. In South Korea, these drugs were given by...

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