French study finds that antibiotic-antimalarial drug combo may shorten COVID-19 infections

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A French study finds that a new drug combo may be effective against COVID-19.

Although the numbers surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic often look grim, there is still plenty of hope. Researchers are working tirelessly to find possible vaccines and treatments. Meanwhile, some countries that were affected early on, like China, are reporting fewer or no new cases.

However, the outbreak continues to rage in the United States and Europe. Fortunately, early results suggest that a major treatment breakthrough may be around the corner. A French study recently showed that a combination of an antibiotic and an anti-malaria medication helps reduce the length of COVID-19 infections.

Promising Results

Scientists and physicians are looking for any tools that will help them fight the novel coronavirus and the nasty respiratory infection that it causes. That search includes drugs that have previously been used to try and combat conditions like Ebola, SARS, HIV, and more.

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A team of researchers from France decided to try the antibiotic-antimalarial combination after previous Chinese studies suggested that the latter could be effective. The anti-malaria medication is known as hydroxychloroquine (the branded version is called Plaqenuil). The antibiotic used during the study is azithromycin (Zithromax).

Both of these medications have been around for years and are known to be both safe and effective for treating the infections they are designed for. However, the new French study suggests that combining them could help shorten the infections of COVID-19 patients.

The team’s research was published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.

Their study included 30 patients. One group received only Plaqenuil, another received both drugs, and a control group received neither. The results show that the group who received both medications was free of the COVID-19 infection by day five. Over 80 percent of the patients in the control group were still infected at that point.

Image: Gautret et al.

Glimmer of Hope

As of now, there is no treatment that’s confirmed to be effective against COVID-19. Instead, hospitals are forced to provide supportive care while patients’ bodies fight off the infection. Sadly, many individuals are unable to do so because of pre-existing medical conditions or because of their age.

The drug combo tested in the French study is hardly the only potential treatment being discussed. However, it is one of the most promising options out there.

Meanwhile, researchers are rushing to create a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible. The first human clinical trial of a vaccine began on Monday at a Seattle-based Kaiser Permanente facility.

However, officials warn that an approved, effective immunization is likely 12-18 months away. By that point, it may not even be needed.

In the U.S., the Pentagon’s DARPA is working on an antibody-based injection that could provide temporary immunity to healthcare workers and first responders. Even that, though, may not be effective.

Fortunately, researchers may have found something better. Should this drug combination continue to be effective with larger sample sizes, an official COVID-19 treatment could be right around the corner. That’s a much-needed glimmer of hope in the face of the worst pandemic the world has seen in a century.

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