What is chloroquine? it could treat coronavirus?

Medical testing is currently ongoing in France into the anti-malarial drug chloroquine as a possible treament for coronavirus – so what do we know so far?

What is chloroquine?

It’s an existing anti-malaria drug, used both to prevent the illness and treat it, so if you’ve been on holiday to a country where malaria is prevalent you may have already been prescribed it.

It’s known by the brand name Nivaquine or, for hydroxychloroquine, Plaquenil and is the synthetic form of quinine.

The drug has been on the market for more than 70 years and is sometimes also used to treat arthritis.

Can it cure coronavirus?

Some doctors and scientists believe it can be effective in treating people who have the virus – it’s not a vaccine and it doesn’t seem to prevent people developing initial symptoms.

What is the evidence for its effectiveness?

The drug is now part of a comparative study on 800 hospitalised coronavirus patients in France. Some are being treated with anti-viral drugs including those used against Ebola, hepatitis C or HIV while others will be given chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine – the two constituent parts of the anti-malaria medication.

France Health Minister Olivier Véran has given permission for the drug to be used for coronavirus patients – but only for the sickest patients and under strict medical supervision in hospitals. It is not available for people to take at home.

The trial will run for six weeks.

Citing a ruling adopted after a meeting of France’s high public health council, Veran said the drug could not be used to treat milder cases of the illness.

“The high council recommends not to use this treatment… with the exception of grave cases, hospitalised, on the basis of a decision taken by doctors and under strict supervision,” Veran told reporters.

French professor Didier Raoult, biologist and professor of microbiology, specialist in infectious diseases and director of IHU Mediterranee Infection Institute in Marseille. Photo: AFP

Didier Raoult COVID-19

Why do people think chloroquine will work?

The possible treatment has been heavily promoted by Professor Didier Raoult (above) a microbiologist based in Marseille who specialises in the study of infectious diseases.

Professor Raoult reported that after treating 24 patients for six days with Plaquenil, the virus had disappeared in all but a quarter of them. The research has not yet been peer reviewed and published.

He told French media over the weekend: “I am convinced that in the end everyone will use this treatment. It’s just a matter of time before people will accept it and say, this is what we have to do.”

His bullish pronouncements lead to people queuing outside the IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseille on Monday, desperate to get their hands on the drug.

Source : thelocal