How Can Chloroquine Phosphate Effectively Cures Coronavirus?

The United States President, Donald Trump has just approved the use of Chloroquine Phosphate for the treatment of Coronavirus.

Prior to its approval by the president, medical experts around the world have been hinting on the possibility that the old anti-malaria drug could be effective at taming covid-19.

Read Also: Favipiravir, A Cure For Coronavirus Finally Discovered

CityNews tries to understand how this is possible with neglected “old anti-malaria” drug called Chloroquine Phosphate.

What is Chloroquine?

Chloroquine Phosphate is the phosphate salt of chloroquine, a quinoline compound with antimalarial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Chloroquine is the most widely used drug against malaria, except for those cases caused by chloroquine resistant Plasmodium falciparum

Chloroquine Phosphate

Although the mechanism of action is not fully understood, chloroquine is shown to inhibit the parasitic enzyme heme polymerase that converts the toxic heme into non-toxic hemazoin, thereby resulting in the accumulation of toxic heme within the parasite.

Chloroquine may also interfere with the biosynthesis of nucleic acids.

>So, What’s The Correlation Between Malaria And Covid-19?

On the surface, not much. But according to early research, the old malaria drug called chloroquine might also work for the new coronavirus.

But, how could a decades-old malaria drug work to treat COVID-19?

Elon Musk seems to think so, recently tweeting that it “might be worth considering chloroquine” for COVID-19.

Although data are spare, studies so far seem to back up the billionaire entrepreneur’s suggestion.

Chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, has been used to treat malaria since 1944. It can be given before exposure to malaria to prevent infection, and it can also be given as treatment afterward.

Malaria is a disease that is caused by a parasite, unlike COVID-19. Nevertheless, laboratory studies show chloroquine is effective at preventing as well as treating the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, a close cousin of COVID-19.

Given chloroquine’s effectiveness in treating SARS, scientists have investigated if it will be an effective treatment against the new coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. So far, the initial trials are encouraging.

“There is evidence that chloroquine is effective when they looked at SARS in vitro with primate cells,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist and internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“The theory of the experiment with primate cells was that chloroquine could be for preventing viral infection or as a treatment for viral infection after it had occurred.

In vitro in these primate cells, there was evidence that viral particles were significantly reduced when chloroquine was used.”

Both the virus that causes SARS and the virus responsible for COVID-19 belong to the same overarching family of coronaviruses.

Researchers in China discovered that the protein spikes on the surface of the COVID-19 virus are similar to the protein spikes found on the surface of the SARS virus.

See Also: WHO Announces First Trial Vaccine For Coronavirus

People become infected when those protein spikes bind to special receptors on the outside of human cells.

How Chloroquine Works To Stop Coronavirus

Chloroquine works by interfering with those receptors, which may interfere with the virus’s ability to bind to cells.

“The way that it worked against SARS was by preventing of the attachment of the virus to the cells.

Chloroquine interfered with the attachment to that receptor on the cell membrane surface,” Horovitz said. “So it’s disrupting a lock and key kind of mechanism of attachment.”

Researchers in China found that treating patients with COVID-19-associated pneumonia with chloroquine may shorten their hospital stay and improve the patient’s outcome.

There are more than 20 ongoing clinical trials in China and more scheduled to start in England, Thailand, South Korea and the United States.

Researchers are also exploring whether chloroquine could be used prophylactically — that is, to prevent infection before it occurs.

It is particularly key “for healthcare workers that get sick,” noted Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, director of Global Health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York.

“Prophylaxis is a viable treatment option, at least in theory. It needs to be studied. It could be studied while in use.

It is something we need to look at, and as terms of a candidate for preventing disease spread and severity.”

Upon confirmation of Chloroquine potency, the U.S. president on Thursday approved the use of the old anti-malaria for the treatment of covid-19.

Thankfully, the potential side effects of the drug are minimal.

“The principle side effects reported were headaches, gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, diarrhea and hair loss, primarily,” said Horovitz.

This is very encouraging news. More encouraging still is that there are several other promising drugs being studied, including the HIV anti-retroviral drug Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir), Favipiravir and the anti-Ebola medication remdesivir,

In the meantime we should each do our part by engaging in social distancing, self-quarantining and self-isolating when appropriate, to stop the spread of this pandemic.

Chloroquine As Anti-Malaria

Agents used in the treatment of malaria. They are usually classified on the basis of their action against plasmodia at different stages in their life cycle in the human.

Chloroquine As Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal

Anti-inflammatory agents that are non-steroidal in nature. In addition to anti-inflammatory actions, they have analgesic, antipyretic, and platelet-inhibitory actions.They act by blocking the synthesis of prostaglandins by inhibiting cyclooxygenase, which converts arachidonic acid to cyclic endoperoxides, precursors of prostaglandins. Inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis accounts for their analgesic, antipyretic, and platelet-inhibitory actions; other mechanisms may contribute to their anti-inflammatory effects.


Angela N. Baldwin, M.D., M.P.H., is a pathology resident at Montefiore Health System in the Bronx and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit. Emmy Olabiyi is the editor in chief for DFMedia.


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