Drug To Treat Covid Might Be On It's Way

South Africa's trials for a possible drug to treat Covid-19 has begun. Should this drug trial end in success and with the way it's being trialed, it could treat those most likely to be hospitalised for complications and aid that very result before complications from the virus arises.

South African trials for a drug to treat Covid-19 has started in the Western Cape. This drug trial for the respiratory disease is taking place at the University of Cape Town's Lung Institute.

These trials will see Keertan Dheda, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of the Division of Pumonology at UCT head it. The Professor said:

The first patient was randomised yesterday and this is a randomised controlled trial that is evaluating a drug called ‘nitazoxanide’ and we are recruiting across four cities in the country.

Nitazoxanide has been around for about 30 years, said the Professor and was used to treat diarrhea that came from parasitic infections but now it's being evaluated to treat the coronavirus. A perk is that it is a low cost drug and is already registered in many countries.

It was found that the drug could kill the virus. However, this conclusion came from it being worked in a lab and not when it was tested on actual patients. Now, trials on patients with the virus have begun, which was suggested by many around the world.

There are two or three other clinical trials that are registered and are due start in other parts of the world but this is the only one that will also be testing the drug in HIV registered persons, said Dheda. 

Another way they aim to get ahead with this drug is by testing it on patients who are in the early stage of the virus in people who are high risk, such as overweight or diabetic individuals, and have not reached a stage where they need to be hospitalised.

The reason for running the trials using patients in this group, according to Dheda, is because a third of this group are found to need hospital care and from there one in three or more of them end up passing away from complications of the virus.

By testing it before any complications needing medical attention arise would then be able to help that group of people and prevent them from getting those very complications should the drug be found to work.

The trial is funded by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and is co-funded by Zylomed Pharmaceuticals who donated the drugs said Dheda.

They plan on having 960 participants enrolled across four cities in South Africa and hope to complete the drug trial in three or four months.

UCT also announced that they have joined the search for a Covid vaccine, along with other Universities, by being involved in three international trials in the country. It was said that more candidates will be available for trials in South Africa.

These trials will start in September and are headed by the University of the Witwatersrand. 

The deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at UCT’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, said, "It is very important for South Africa to participate [in vaccine trials] because we can contribute to the global cause, and it helps scientists understand how South Africans will respond to these [vaccine] candidates".


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