UK health workers will take part in testing malaria drug against Covid-19

Frontline health workers in the UK will participate in a clinical trial to test if the malaria drug touted by US President Donald Trump prevents coronavirus, British media reported. Testing to see if chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine can prevent Covid-19 is open to staff in Brighton and Oxford as part of the investigation. It comes just days after Trump's decision to take the drug was described as "a staggering, irresponsible act”.

The study for UK health workers is a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial that will enroll more than 40,000 people. Those taking part will work with confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. They will be given either hydroxychloroquine or a placebo for three months.

Scientists say the drug has some "very serious" side-effects and there is no evidence that it prevents or treats the disease. But the study's lead UK investigator, Prof Martin Llewelyn of Brighton and Sussex School, noted that a safe and effective vaccine may be a long way off.

"If drugs as well tolerated as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could reduce the chances of catching Covid-19 this would be incredibly valuable," he believes.

Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription drug used for acute malaria and certain types of arthritis. It can reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling - and is widely used to treat rheumatic diseases. It is a derivative of chloroquine, which is also used to treat malaria. The UK government has said that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are not licensed to treat Covid-19 related symptoms or prevent infection. It said the drugs should not be used outside ongoing clinical trials which have reached no conclusions over the safety and effectiveness of the medicine on coronavirus.

The first UK participants in the new trial can be enrolled from Thursday at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital. Further testing is expected at another four sites by the end of May, with 25 total locations opened across the UK before July and more planned around the globe. The team aims to deliver results by the end of 2020

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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