Cure using HIV drugs raises hopes; doctors say too early to celebrate

Though the patient getting cured has created excitement, it is not proved yet and the WHO is researching on it.

Published: 27th March 2020 06:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th March 2020 06:24 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: Hopes of curing Covid-19 using antiretroviral drugs - normally used for the treatment of HIV — got a boost after the samples of the British national, who is undergoing treatment at Government Medical College, Kalamassery, tested negative.

The 57-year-old Brit is the second patient to be successfully cured of Coronavirus in India after the doctors of Jaipur’s Sawai Man Singh Hospital treated an Italian patient last week using a combination of HIV, swine flu and malaria drugs. Though cured of Covid-19, the UK national was not discharged and is being treated for other ailments at the hospital.

Though doctors said it was too early to celebrate, they added that there are enough reasons to be optimistic given the fact that the UK patient’s condition was severe. “The patient had severe Covid-19 symptoms, including breathlessness. With the State Medical Board’s approval, we had experimented the HIV drugs - Ritonavir and Lopinavir -  and it yielded results. But we are not using this on all the patients,” said Dr Geetha Nair, deputy superintendent and also one among the team of doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

The HIV drug was used on only one UK national and the rest of the five positive Covid-19 cases, whose results also arrived negative, were administered a normal treatment protocol of viral pneumonia, she said. Dr Anup R Warrier, a consultant of infectious disease, said that it is too early to say that HIV drugs are a cure for Covid-19 patients. “Clinical trials are going on and the whole world is testing the possibility of several drugs such as Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir, and Chloroquine.

Though the patient getting cured has created excitement, it is not proved yet and the WHO is researching on it. Hopefully, we will get a breakthrough in a week or two,” he said. Since the fatality rate of the disease is low, around 85 per cent of patients get cured on their own, while they are given medications for normal viral pneumonia, he said. “Age is not a factor when it comes to administering a particular drug. The drug which has been a success on the UK patient had failed once after it was tested in a western country. So before considering a drug as a cure, it needs to be clinically tested on at least 5-10 patients. But since we are all in panic and there is no cure yet, we cannot rule out the possibility of the drug being used again in critical patients,” said an epidemiologist based in Thiruvananthapuram. 

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