Anti-Malaria Drug Discovered to Help Fight Coronavirus
You have probably heard in the news how these anti-Malaria drugs chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, which are related and both used in similar ways, could be used to help fight coronavirus infections as well.
One of the main reasons why you may be thinking that is that the President of the United States, Donald Trump, touted particularly the latter one, hydroxychloroquine, as a cure for COVID-19. For now, despite the President claiming that this could be “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine”, there is little evidence to suggest that this is going to be the magic cure that everyone has been looking for.
If you were doubtful about these claims in the first place then good on you because just taking drugs on the off chance that they might help poses a massive risk to your own health and the health of others. It is understandable that seeing yourself or a loved one get infected with COVID-19 feels extremely stressful and, in a way, seems to leave you powerless.
But the thing is, by randomly medicating it you are not actually helping, It may feel as if you are doing something that may help, but in reality, you are just adding another problem to all the problems that the infected person already has – which then also adds more issues for the medical professionals to deal with as if they did not already have enough to worry about.
A striking example of how things can go wrong if the President goes around making sweeping statements about possible cures is what happened in Arizona last week. A man died and his wife had to be hospitalized after taking chloroquine.
Do not be fooled, even if the President may not have given explicit recommendations, what he said was taken up as explicit enough to serve as a recommendation for trying it out. And while there is also a responsibility on the side of those who decided to just test this drug without the recommendation of a health professional, the President could probably do with phrasing his statements and briefings more succinctly and coherently – if he is capable of it.
On top of that, after Trump had made the statements, the head of NIH’s National Institute for allergies and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, quickly corrected the statement as best he could. He explained how what Trump said was only based on anecdotes and there was no conclusive evidence to support these claims. By that time, however, the damage had already been done. In the United States, people tend to believe celebrities over experts on a lot of things, and unfortunately, medicine is not an exception.
But what is actually known about the anti-malaria drug discovered to help fight coronavirus infections? Well, what is certain is that they have been used to fight malaria for decades now, so they are effective in this regard. On top of that, there is precedent for using both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
However, none of these uses are officially approved by the FDA. Now, that may seem like government red-tape at first glance, but remember that without thorough testing you can never be sure that medication is going to have unpredictable side effects that can not only affect the person taking them but also, for example, the children they may have in the future. These things are no laughing matter, so it is important that the people who devote their lives to studying these things get a say in how they are being used.
The reason why these two drugs are being touted as potentially magical cures for COVID-19 is that they were showing promising effects when they were tested in connection with the MERS outbreak in 2012. What scientists observed was that these drugs and others could block coronaviruses from infecting cells in vitro to some extent, but they were not effective enough to be pursued further.
Now, these tests are being continued and expanded all around the world. But MERS and COVID-19 are not the same things – MERS is a parasitic infection and COVID-19 is a viral infection, for example. At the end of the day, there are millions of possible interactions that scientists have to test in order to find out if a drug is effective or not, and, more importantly, if it does not actually cause more harm than good. And even if you know about that, there is the question of dosage and how they work in combination with other medications.
In general, this anti-malaria drug that was discovered to help fight coronavirus infections is another shot that the world has at defeating COVID-19. But it could just as easily be a fluke – it is simply too early to know. It is frustrating, yes. In a way, the uncertainty that surrounds COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges and this also applies to the potential treatment options out there.
But if you really want to do something against the spread of the disease, then your options are already crystal clear: Wash your hands regularly, social distance, make sure not to touch your face, stay indoors as much as you can. This is what kills the virus and makes sure it runs out of fuel eventually. As soon as there is a cure that has been proven to work, you can be sure to hear the news immediately.