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Opinion

'The jury's still out on use of anti-malarials to treat Covid-19'

1 April 2020 6:23 PM

Dr John Woodland cautions against the prospect of rushing into using chlororquine and hydroxychloroquine 'just to buy time'.

Scientists around the world are scrambling to fast-track their research into developing a vaccine for Covid-19, for which there is as yet no effective treatment.

In the meantime, some countries are looking at the possibilities held by two anti-malarial drugs.

RELATED: Worldwide WHO trial involving SA is focused on Covid-19 treatment, not vaccine

The Daily Maverick's published an article by Dr John Woodland titled Could a classic antimalarial help in the fight against Covid-19?

John Maytham finds out more from Dr Woodland, who is a post-doctoral medicinal chemist with the Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D) at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

He emphasizes that it's vital any potential vaccine or treatment for Covid-19 is proven to be both effective and safe.

Unfortunately those kinds of trials take a very, very long time.

Dr John Woodland, Post-doctoral medicinal chemist - H3D at UCT

In light of this, Dr Woodland dissects the hype around re-purposing anti-malarials and why it is so "tantalising" to "re -position 'old drugs' such as chlororquine and hydroxychloroquine".

We have to be so careful because you need to do these clinical trials properly and if you don't, then people start drawing conclusions that are not based on evidence...

Dr John Woodland, Post-doctoral medicinal chemist - H3D at UCT

... then maybe health professionals incorrectly prescribe these molecules, people take their aquarium cleaning tablets which contain the active ingredient and of course that can lead to a lot of poisonings, even a death we've seen, so that's all very irresponsible.

Dr John Woodland, Post-doctoral medicinal chemist - H3D at UCT

For chlororquine and hydroxychloroquine, these two interesting anti-malarials, we just don't have the correct information yet. So it's a bit of a waiting game.

Dr John Woodland, Post-doctoral medicinal chemist - H3D at UCT

Listen to this important conversation in the audio below:


1 April 2020 6:23 PM

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