Researchers propose that antimalarial medications could be repurposed to treat COVID-19

Researchers propose that antimalarial medications could be repurposed to treat COVID-19


  • Post By : Kumar Jeetendra

  • Source: St George's, University of London

  • Date: 20 Oct,2020

An international group of researchers believe there is enough evidence that anti-malarial drugs could be repurposed to treat COVID-19 and they need to be evaluated for efficacy in clinical trials. The review article, published online in Trends in Parasitology, summarizes the evidence for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties of particular anti-malarial drugs which could play a part in tackling COVID-19.

The research group, from associations across Europe, Asia and Africa, point to a combination of the medication artesunate and pyronaridine as the most promising.

Both drugs have demonstrated antiviral effects on the SARS-CoV-2 virus in human lung cells in lab studies and pyronaridine is more potent than hydroxychloroquine in these tests.

Artesunate also has anti-inflammatory results and could work in a similar way to dexamethasone, which has been proven to improve survival in hospitalised COVID-19 patients receiving oxygen. And artesunate use does not incur the same risk of adverse effects as dexamethasone.

These medications are both inexpensive and have a well-known safety profile, meaning they are trialed in symptomatic patients with a verified COVID-19 diagnosis with minimal risk. They could also readily be manufactured at scale.

The researchers hope that, with funding, it would be possible to test this combination in robust clinical trials, evaluating the efficacy of the medication in non-hospitalised patients with COVID-19.

The review article also acknowledges the dangers of overpromising the capacity of these drugs and stresses the importance of avoiding the issues and increased attention that surrounded the use of hydroxychloroquine earlier in the year.

There is a huge need to reduce the risk of disease progression and hospitalisation in people diagnosed with COVID-19. Improvements in treatment at the onset of symptoms could have a great benefit on easing the burdens on healthcare systems globally. This review highlights our approach to the use of drugs for treating malaria to assess the part they could play in beating coronavirus. It’s still too early to say whether these drugs will be effective, but the right signs in the laboratory are there. We now need to kickstart clinical trials in patients with COVID-19 to see if these drugs can improve outcomes and help people overcome their diagnosis more quickly and without the need for more intensive treatment.”

Sanjeev Krishna, Study Lead Author and Professor of Molecular Parasitology and Medicine, St George University of London

Journal reference:

Krishna, S., et al. (2020) Repurposing antimalarials to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Trends in Parasitology.

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