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Two low-cost generic drugs used to treat malaria and lower blood pressure are being tested by U.S. researchers to see if they have any effect in treating the novel coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine, which is also being tested by China, Australia and France, has had success in suppressing the production and release of proteins involved in the inflammatory complications of other viral illnesses, according to Reuters.
“We’re trying to leverage the science to see if we can do something in addition to minimizing contacts,” Dr. Jakub Tolar, dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School and vice president for clinical affairs, told Reuters. “Results are likely in weeks, not months.”
The drug is being tested in a trial of 1,500 people led by University of Minnesota researchers, while two other trials studying the effect losartan has on the virus are also underway. Researchers believe losartan, which is used to treat hypertension and protect kidneys from damage due to diabetes, may be able to block an enzyme used by COVID-19 to bind to cells.
The trials are watching to see if the drug will reduce the risk of organ failure in COVID-19 patients, and whether it can limit the need for hospitalization, Reuters reported. In late 2019, the Food and Drug and Administration (FDA) announced several recalls for losartan over concerns that the tablets may contain small amounts of a cancer-causing ingredient.
While the majority of patients infected with COVID-19 suffer mild symptoms, individuals may experience fever, cough or shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said early data suggests that patients who are over 60 or who have underlying health issues are at the highest risk of death or serious complications.
More than 222,643 people across 151 countries and territories have been sickened by the virus since it was first discovered in Wuhan, China, back in December. In the U.S., over 9,415 cases have been confirmed, resulting in at least 150 deaths.
There is no known cure nor vaccine available for COVID-19, but several companies have been racing to develop options as the nation grapples with a potential shortage of hospital beds and protective medical supplies.