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Coronavirus treatment: What is malaria drug hydroxychloroquine?

More than 265,000 people around the world has so far tested positive for coronavirus. The COVID-19 virus has spread to more than 170 countries or territories since being discovered in Wuhan City, China in December.

Since its discovery people have been urged to wash their hands, distance themselves from others and self-isolate for 14 days if they experience symptoms.

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, a dry cough and breathing problems.

COVID-19 infects the lungs and it can take five days on average to start showing symptoms.

The early symptoms can easily be confused with other winter bugs including colds and flu.


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In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accelerated measures to combat the virus.

During a press conference on Friday he told pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, among other venues, to close their doors for the unforeseeable future.

As more drastic measures are put in place around the world slow down the spread, scientists are attempting to find a treatment.

About 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to create a vaccine, and at least four already have candidates they have been testing in animals.

The first of these – produced by Boston-based biotech firm Moderna – will enter human trials imminently.

In the USA, President Donald Trump has claimed hydroxychloroquine showed “tremendous promise” in regards to treating the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus.

Mr Trump talked about the drug at a White House press conference on Thursday, saying: “It is known as a malaria drug, and it’s been around for a long time and it’s very powerful.

“But the nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.”

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What is malaria drug hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine is a medication used for the prevention and treatment of certain types of the parasitic infection malaria.

Specifically, the medication is used for chloroquine-sensitive malaria.

Other uses include treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and porphyria cutanea tarda.

On the Lupus UK website, it states: “Hydroxychloroquine is generally the first line of treatment for someone who has been diagnosed with lupus.

“It is used for skin and joint involvement, muscle inflammation, fever, fatigue, pleurisy, to reduce the development of renal (kidney) disease and chronic damage, and for its steroid-sparing properties.”

The US President mentioned during his press conference, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) fast tracked the approval process for the drug, taking it “down from many, many months to immediate”.

However, despite his statements making it appear the drug had been approved by the FDA for coronavirus treatment, that is not yet the case.

The FDA said they are working closely with US government agencies and academic centres to investigate the use of the drug to determine if it can be used to treat patients with “mild-to-moderate COVID-19”.

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