HIV medication was just used to ‘cure’ a man of the coronavirus, giving scientists ‘hope’

Josh Milton March 9, 2020
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Coronavirus cure: HIV medication was just used to treat COIVD-19

Spain's public health services have been pelted by more than 1,000 cases of the new coronavirus strain, COVID-19. (STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

As the coronavirus death toll continues to surge, a Spanish drug typically used to manage HIV was successfully used to ‘cure’ a man with COVID-19, giving health experts “hope”.

Scientists across the world have scrambled to source a vaccine for the deadly virus which started in the Wuhan province of China. As of Monday, more than 110,000 have acquired COVID-19 and nearly 4,000 people have died.

Yet, sending ripples across Seville in southern Spain, a patient was treated with lopinavir/ritonavir, a protease inhibitor, according to El País.

‘The results we have so far for the use of these drugs to “cure” coronavirus give us hope.’

“It’s an experimental usage of the drug that has given good results with other viruses,” said Albert Bosch, president of the Spanish Virology Society.

“One of the biggest advantages is that they are already approved for use, so there is little doubt about their safety.”

It comes off the back of Chinese health authorities naming the drugs as part of its treatment plans in the rush to develop a vaccine.

The two medications are sold under the brand name Kaletra by AbbVie and target specific enzymes in the body that both HIV and the coronavirus use to replicate themselves.

According to the medical journal Lancet, the lopinavir-ritonavir combination has had a positive outcome in two similar viruses – the SARS outbreak of 2003 and Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak of 2012.

Spanish officials have clambered to contain COVID-19. (LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)
Spanish officials have clambered to contain COVID-19. (LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

The patient, Miguel Ángel Benítez, 63, received a dose of the drug paired with interferon beta, a signalling protein that cells produce when infected and that increases resistance to viruses.

“The results we have so far for the use of these drugs to treat coronavirus give us hope,” said Santiago Moreno, head of infectious diseases at Ramón y Cajal Hospital in Madrid.

Health chiefs stressed, however, that the success observed in the case will not necessarily translate to the fabled “cure”, and that caution will be exercised as further studies are conducted by medics.

The new pathogen first emerged in December 2019 and was tracked down to Wuhan’s busy seafood and livestock market.

COVID-19 quickly spread beyond China to France, Germany, Japan, the US, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, the UAE, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Canada and Nepal.

More: Coronavirus, coronavirus cure, COVID-19, Health, HIV, Spain

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