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Malaria drug chloroquine potential treatment for coronavirus

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Researchers at the Belgian university KU Leuven have discovered that the antimalarial medication chloroquine seems to have a curative effect on patients infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19). Chloroquine is cheap and has been on the market for many years. It therefore may potentially be a good treatment option until a vaccine against the coronavirus is available.

Chloroquine has been marketed internationally since 1934 as an antimalarial treatment. The antiviral effects of chloroquine against SARS coronaviruses were already discovered in 2004 by a team of virologists headed by Professor Marc van Ranst at KU Leuven. Professor Marc van Ranst was able to confirm its effects, but because the outbreak of SARS had abated by August 2004, the medicine could no longer be tested against SARS coronaviruses in patients. The 2004 SARS virus was a coronavirus type 1. The novel coronavirus is a new strain of the coronavirus and has been identified as SARS coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Clinical trials were conducted in patients with COVID-19 in 10 Chinese hospitals by the university’s team of virologists. Patients who received chloroquine during a week had less fever and regained lung function performance quicker. They were faster to clear the virus from their bodies and were eventually cured.

Although rapid progress is being made in the search for a vaccine to fight the coronavirus, this vaccine may not be ready until 2021. According to the researchers, chloroquine is a potential solution to bridge this gap. In part because chloroquine is cheap, relatively easy to produce in larger quantities and has been on the market for more than 85 years. The Chinese government has confirmed that chloroquine has a certain curative effect on the novel coronavirus disease.

Distribution and infection of coronavirus

The coronavirus is transmitted between animals, from animals to people and from person to person. Signs and symptoms of infection include respiratory problems, fever, coughing and shortness of breath. In severe cases, coronavirus infection can cause pneumonia, kidney failure and death. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following standard precautions for avoiding infection:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. For example, with your elbow or a tissue.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and raw eggs.
  • Avoid contact with people with symptoms of the coronavirus.

WHO stresses that the use of jet-air hand dryers, UV lamps and alcohol-based hand sanitizers and gels does not prevent coronavirus infection.

Contact your doctor right away if you have symptoms of infection with the new coronavirus. If your doctor suspects you have been exposed to or infected with the coronavirus, they will ensure you are referred and/or treated.

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KU Leuven. (2020, 18 February). Antivirale werking van chloroquine tegen coronavirussen reeds in 2004 ontdekt door virologen KU Leuven [Antiviral effects of chloroquine on coronaviruses already discovered in 2004 by KU Leuven virologists]. Consulted on 19 February 2020 on (2020, 18 February). 86 jaar oud malariamiddel werkt tegen door coronavirus veroorzaakte ziekte [86-year-old malaria drug effective against diseases caused by coronavirus]. Consulted on 19 February 2020 on

World Health Organization: WHO. (2020, 10 January). Coronavirus. Consulted on 19 February 2020 on

World Health Organization: (n.d.). Myth busters. Consulted on 19 February 2020 on

Xinhua Net. (2020, 17 February). Antimalarial drug confirmed effective on COVID-19: official – Xinhua | Consulted on 19 February 2020 on

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