As more and more people around the globe are becoming infected with the coronavirus, the World Health Organization, or WHO, is leading efforts to find an effective treatment for the disease. When the coronavirus, which is also known as COVID-19, began appearing in China last January, doctors and scientists in the country began performing a variety of clinical trials to defeat the disease using existing medication. Thus far, however, none of these trials has given enough data for medical experts to recommend them as a clear source of treatment.
In a new press statement, Tedros Adhanom, the director-general of the WHO, commended researchers from across the globe for their efforts at systematically trying to find a cure. Nevertheless, Adhanom says that these efforts are too small and too narrow to gather enough data. To find an effective countermeasure against the virus, Adhanom announced that the WHO would be spearheading four clinical trials. The first utilizes remdesivir, an antiviral that is still experimental. The second will test the antimalarial prescriptions chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. The third trial will use a combination of two HIV treatments while the fourth will use the same two HIV treatments in conjunction with interferon beta, an anti-inflammatory drug. The agency says that these trials will be flexible in their methodology, being able to add or drop treatments based on necessity and location.
Of the four treatments being explored by the WHO, the one that uses chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine has gained the most interest in public discussion. In addition to being known by doctors the world over for decades because of their use in treating malaria, smaller studies have found that they are effective in battling COVID-19. In a lab study, researchers found that hydroxychloroquine stops the virus from infecting healthy cells. Doctors who have treated patients with coronavirus also attest to both drugs being helpful in managing their patients’ symptoms.
Caleb Skipper, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota, is involved in one such study. Skipper says that his study is seeking to answer if chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can prevent people who are already infected with coronavirus from developing severe symptoms. Part of the methodology being used by Skipper’s team is to begin the chloroquine treatment as early as possible. Skipper explains that starting treatment earlier prevents the virus from replicating, thus reducing the severity of symptoms. Skipper’s study is particularly hopeful in helping doctors and nurses who treat patients with COVID-19 and are therefore more likely to contract the illness.