Why an antimalarial drug is being considered for treating COVID-19 patients?

  • Why an antimalarial drug is being considered for treating COVID-19 patients?
  • Reference: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41422-020-0282-0#ref-CR10
  • We have been hearing in the news that an antimalarial drug is being considered for treating COVID-19 patients around the world. Even the Indian government officially recommended doctors to use this drug for serious cases. So what is the source of these claims? In Feb this year, a research group based on Wuhan set out to test whether existing antiviral drugs could be used against COVID-19. They infected kidney cells of African green monkey with COVID-19 and checked what dose of existing drugs can stop the virus. This is a standard approach to test the efficiency of a drug at the earlier stage of drug development. Out of the 5 drugs they tested,  Remdesivir and Chloroquine were effective at low doses (See figure below). Hydroxychloroquine, a type of Chloroquine is the antimalarial drug that is coming around the news and this study is the reason why everyone is excited about this drug. The authors of this study propose that 500mg dose of Chloroquine taken orally should be sufficient to stop virus spread inside human body. There are a few limitations in this study we need to consider before widespread use of this drug. The most important being that, this study was done in cells. The findings need to be tested in the whole organism and clinical trials should be done on patients. This process is underway and lets hope for the best. Like any drug, Chloroquine has side effects and is quite toxic, that is why Hydroxychloroquine is being recommended. But wait, Why should a malarial drug work against COVID-19? Will Hydroxychloroquine be as effective as Chloroquine? I will cover this next here. stay tuned!
  • Summary by: Ramakrishnan Pandiarajan, Graduate student at Helmholtz Centre, Munich, Germany

Photo credit: Егор Камелев on Unsplash

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