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Coronavirus antiviral was discovered in Leuven 15 years ago
A discovery made by researchers at KU Leuven in 2004 is now helping to combat the coronavirus in China. The antimalarial medication Chloroquine is currently part of a drug trial in China and is greatly relieving the symptoms of the coronavirus, helping patients get better more quickly.
A team of virologists at KU Leuven carried out a study of the antiviral activities of chloroquine 15 years ago. Led by professor Marc Van Ranst, the team at Leuven’s Rega Institute tested the activity of chloroquine against the Sars coronavirus type 1 in cell cultures.
Chloroquine was shown to have an antiviral effect at concentrations that could safely be used in humans. By August 2004, the outbreak of Sars had abated in China and Canada, so chloroquine could no longer be tested against Sars coronaviruses in patients.
Experts from the Chinese ministry of science and technology confirmed at a press conference this week that chloroquine has a curative effect in clinical trials on patients with Covid-19. The trials were conducted in patients in 10 hospitals in Beijing, Hunan and Guangdong. Patients who received chloroquine for a week had lower fevers, regained lung function faster and were clear of the virus sooner than those who did not receive the drug.
“The tests appear to have been successful, and we are happy to hear that,” says Professor Van Ranst. “Chloroquine is cheap and relatively easy to produce in large quantities, although the number of manufacturers is limited. If the results of the clinical trials in China are confirmed by further research, chloroquine may have a worldwide impact on the treatment of patients that are infected with this novel coronavirus.”
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