Australian researchers say they’ve discovered a “cure” for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The researchers hope to begin a nationwide trial by the end of March.
Professor David Paterson of the University of Queensland said that two medications have eliminated the virus from test tubes. Paterson said it is not an exaggeration to label the two medications a “treatment or cure” for COVID-19.
Paterson said that Kaletra, a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir which is used to treat HIV, was given to Australians infected with SARS-CoV-2 and the medication caused a “disappearance of the virus.”
“Patients would end up with no viable coronavirus in their system at all after the end of the therapy,” he said.
Paterson stressed that the treatment has only been effective in a small sample size of cases. He said controlled testing must be done.
“That first wave of Chinese patients we had… they all did very, very well when they were treated with the HIV drug,” he said. “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 another drug, versus the combination of the two drugs.”
Kaletra is a protease inhibitor. This type of medication prevents viruses from using an enzyme called protease which they need to use to reproduce.
The other drug is the malaria medication chloroquine. Chloroquine is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. It and its analog hydroxychloroquine are inexpensive and widely available. Stanford University recently noted that Chinese researchers found that COVID-19 patients given chloroquine showed “certain curative effect” with “fairly good efficacy.” Chinese treatment guidelines suggest 500 mg of chloroquine twice per day for seven days for adults over 50 kg. Stanford also noted that chloroquine has been demonstrated to effectively prevent and treat SARS-CoV infection. SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 are genetically similar.
It is particularly helpful that both drugs are already approved drugs because this eliminates the need for safety trials before the drugs can gain government approval for treating COVID-19.
There have been over 197,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 leading to over 7,900 deaths. China, Iran, Europe, South Korea and the United States have all seen major outbreaks of the disease. Common COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath. Severe complications can include pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome and death.