Coronavirus: Combination of antimalarial medication and antibiotics could shorten COVID-19, researchers say

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A study in France suggests that treating COVID-19 patients with antimalarial medication and antibiotics could prove a useful weapon in the battle against the novel coronavirus.

Researchers prescribed the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin to patients earlier this month, according to the research, which is published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.

“French Confirmed COVID-19 patients were included in a single arm protocol from early March to March 16th, to receive 600mg of hydroxychloroquine daily and their viral load in nasopharyngeal swabs was tested daily in a hospital setting,” the researchers wrote in an abstract. “Depending on their clinical presentation, azithromycin was added to the treatment.”

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Untreated patients from another center and COVID-19 cases who refused the treatment were included as negative controls. “Presence and absence of virus at Day6-post inclusion was considered the end point,” the researchers explained.

Six patients in the study were asymptomatic, while 22 had upper respiratory tract infection symptoms and eight had lower respiratory tract infection symptoms. Researchers treated 20 cases in the study. These cases “showed a significant reduction of the viral carriage at D6-post inclusion compared to controls, and much lower average carrying duration than reported of untreated patients in the literature.”

“Azithromycin added to hydroxychloroquine was significantly more efficient for virus elimination,” the researchers added. “Despite its small sample size our survey shows that hydroxychloroquine treatment is significantly associated with viral load reduction/disappearance in COVID-19 patients and its effect is reinforced by azithromycin.”

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The research was led by Philippe Gautret and Jean-Christophe Lagier of IHU-Méditerranée Infection in Marseille and Aix Marseille University

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In an interview on Fox and Friends Friday morning, Dr. Mehmet Oz said that he is feeling optimistic about the French research data. “These medications were remarkably effective in reducing the viral load in people who had coronavirus, the COVID-19,” Oz explained. “We could actually make this virus behave a lot more like the flu virus, if that’s true.”

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As of Friday morning, at least 246,275 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, 14,250 of which are in the U.S. The disease has accounted for at least 10,038 deaths around the world, including 205 people in the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers