Australian researchers claim to find two drugs to treat coronavirus

PTI Melbourne | Updated on March 16, 2020 Published on March 16, 2020

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Australian researchers on Monday claimed to have found two drugs -- an HIV and an anti-malaria medicines -- to treat novel coronavirus which has claimed five lives and infected over 350 others in the country.

University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research Director David Paterson told that the two drugs, which were used in test tubes, stopped coronavirus in its tracks and a clinical trial on humans was ready to begin.

One of the two medications is an HIV drug, and the other is an anti-malaria drug called chloroquine.

Paterson said one of the medications had been administered to some of the first few COVID-19 patients in Australia, and that they had completely recovered after all signs of the virus “disappeared”

“It’s a potentially effective treatment. Patients would end up with no viable coronavirus in their system at all after the end of therapy,” said Paterson, an infectious disease physician at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

“What we want to do at the moment is a large clinical trial across Australia, looking at 50 hospitals, and what we’re going to compare is one drug versus the other, versus the combination of the two drugs,” the University of Queensland research director said.

“We’re not on a flat foot, we can sort of move ahead very rapidly with enrolling Australians in this trial,” Paterson said.

“We want to give Australians the absolute best treatment rather than just someone’s guesses or someone’s anecdotal experiences from a few people,” Paterson said, adding they were hoping to enrol patients by the March-end.

“And that way, if we can test it in this first wave of patients -- we do fully expect that there are going to be ongoing infections for months and months ahead -- we’ll have the best possible information to treat subsequent patients,” Paterson said. “That’s really our aim, to get real world experience in Australia.”

Speaking on the outbreak in China, Paterson said “things were just chaotic there” and that the data available from China was not reliable as it was not collected “in a very controlled” manner.

“There were these emergency hospitals being built and the system really being very, very stretched,” he said.

Paterson said while the new COVID-19 medicines had successful outcomes in some patients, it had not been tested in a controlled or a comparative manner. The drugs can be administered as oral tablets.

Paterson said they were looking to treat patients “as soon as they’re admitted” to hospital in controlled settings.

He said the research was prompted after Chinese patients, who were first given the drug in Australia, showed their doctors information on the internet about the treatment used overseas.

“Our doctors were very, very surprised that a HIV drug could actually work against the novel coronavirus and there was a bit of scepticism,” he said. “That first wave of Chinese patients we had (in Australia), they all did very, very well when they were treated with the HIV drug.”

“That’s reassuring that we’re onto something really good here.” He said the drug trials and other medical related research will commence once it would secure fundings.

Published on March 16, 2020

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