After seeing a discussion on Laura Ingraham’s Monday show about existing antiviral drugs such as chloroquine, reader “Dru” wrote to ask me what I thought about the promise of these drugs to treat novel coronavirus. Now, I am not a scientist and don’t even play one on TV, but I can offer you some background. In fact, in yesterday’s Evening Edition, I linked to a story out of Australia about the good results obtained with existing antiviral drugs. Calling this treatment a “cure,” as the headline does, seems premature; however, they are ready to move on to a widespread human trial on what they call “this first wave of patients.” Here it that story if you didn’t see it last night.
Chloroquine is already widely used as an antimalarial drug and an anti-inflammatory agent, and it also has shown anti-viral activity against several other similar viruses, such as Zika. So it would certainly make sense to test it against the novel coronavirus. There’s a lot of misinformation going around online right now –- “Yes, it's a cure!!! No, it’s a scam!!!” –- but here’s a published study that might help put the issue in perspective. It was done in 2009 in response to the SARS epidemic, which showed for the first time that coronaviruses were capable of causing serious respiratory illness.
Sorry, PETA; this multifaceted study involved infecting mice with viruses and looking at symptoms and survival rates of treated vs. untreated. Among other things, researchers were trying to determine when the administering of chloroquine worked better (at least IN MICE). There are other studies on antiviral drugs listed in the sidebar.
What works in mice doesn’t necessarily work in humans. I would think that under the circumstances, research could be super-fast-tracked and an existing drug such as chloroquine that is known to be safe, even FDA-approved, could be used in human trials RIGHT NOW. For all I know, this is happening. In the meantime, past results are encouraging, at least if you’re a pregnant mouse, as in this study from China on chloroquine administered for protection against microcephaly (small heads in newborns) caused by Zika virus.
Wow, for a moment I was distracted by the thought of how small the microcephalic head of a newborn mouse would be. Almost as small as AOC’s brain.
Here’s more promising research on the use of chloroquine, this one on Zika virus in an in vitro study involving various human and mouse brain cells.
And here’s a new Chinese study –- ironically, from the Wuhan Institute of Virology –- on the effects of chloroquine and another promising anti-viral drug, remdesivir. It shows a high level of effectiveness, at least in vitro, for both drugs in the control of novel coronavirus, to the extent that they recommend assessing them in the treatment of human patients.
You will not be tested on any of this. I link to these studies just to show that research into these existing antiviral medications is already going on because of previous bouts with other viruses such as ebola, Zika and SARS/MERS. Now, the studies need to be accelerated, as they were a few decades ago in response to HIV/AIDS. It’s going to be dedicated scientists and other innovative people who find better, faster ways to test and treat for this and other viruses, along with strategies to help us head off future pandemics. Of course, along with human ingenuity, I believe in the power of prayer, so pray for those scientists, for President Trump and all those who are involved in combatting and ultimately defeating this foe.
Here’s another approach being studied: giving plasma from recovered coronavirus patients, who presumably would have antibodies against it, to current patients and to those who have been exposed. Dr. Arturo Casadevall, a professor at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, talked with Tucker Carlson about this on Monday night. “It is important to do this right,” he said, “and to do it with a regulatory framework.” Once approvals are in place, he said, recovered patients might be invited to donate just as people donate blood today.
Anyway, researchers are all over this. I’ll leave you with some recent anecdotal evidence on the use of antiviral drugs, including HIV drugs, as reported by the NEW YORK POST.