COVID-19 – can chloroquine help tackle the pandemic?

26 March 2020
Acuity digital

The antimalarial drug may be a glimmer of hope as coronavirus takes hold across the world, if the threat of retinopathy can be managed.

The novel coronavirus SARS-nCoV-2 – (which causes the disease referred to as COVID-19) will have a significant impact on our health, practice and economy for many months – and perhaps years – to come.  

As everyone knows, with such a new condition, there are no tested and proven pharmacological agents to assist in the management and treatment of COVID-19. Media and social media sources have been talking about chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine being used in combination with azithromycin as offering glimmers of hope in treating COVID-19 - we consider how hopeful we should be about them.

SARS-CoV-2 is of the Betacoronavirus genus, in the order Nidorvirales (Gorbalenya et al, 2020). It is closely related to Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV (MERS-CoV), and to severe acute respiratory syndrome CoV (SARS-CoV). Medicines such as corticosteroids, interferon, ribavirin and lopinavir-ritonavir have been used to treat people with MERS and SARS, although there is still some debate about the efficacy of these drugs. The fact that such molecules have had some effect on these closely related CoV viruses (Yan et al, 2013) offers some hope, and some insights, into where we could look for drugs to tackle COVID-19, and by what mechanisms those agents might work.

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