University of Washington to begin testing antimalarial drug against coronavirus

Mar 30 2020, 12:24 pm

Beginning in April, researchers at the University of Washington will be conducting studies to investigate whether hydroxychloroquine, a commonly used antimalarial and autoimmune-disease treatment, can prevent transmission of COVID-19.

The $9.5 million multi-site clinical trial led by the University of Washington School of Medicine, in collaboration with New York University Grossman School of Medicine, will test 2,000 participants referred by physicians who are close contacts of persons with confirmed or pending coronavirus diagnoses.

Participants of the study will be randomly assigned to take hydroxychloroquine or a placebo while undergoing daily nasal swab samples, which will be tested to confirm new COVID-19 infections across the two groups.

Results of the study are expected in the summer, after eight weeks of trials.

“If hydroxychloroquine provides protection, then it could be an essential tool for fighting this pandemic. If it doesn’t, then people should avoid unnecessary risks from taking the drug,” said Anna Bershteyn, assistant professor of population health at NYU and co-principal investigator of the study.

According to the University of Washington, hydroxychloroquine has been used since the early 1950s to prevent malaria and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It’s hypothesized to work by preventing the virus from entering the cell.

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