KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — Thai doctors reportedly reached a breakthrough in treating severe cases of the novel coronavirus through a combination of drugs for the flu and HIV.
A doctor from Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok said that initial results showed vast improvements 48 hours after applying the treatment, including in one 70-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan who had tested positive for 2019-nCoV that originated from China.
“This is not the cure, but the patient’s condition has vastly improved,” Reuters quoted Dr Kriangska Atipornwanich, a lung specialist at Rajavithi, as saying.
“From testing positive for 10 days under our care, after applying this combination of medicine the test result became negative within 48 hours.”
Officials at a press conference added that the latest lab test has shown there is no trace of the virus anymore in the patient’s respiratory system, according to CNN.
Dr Atipornwanich, however, said more studies are needed to determine if this can be considered as a standard treatment for all patients infected with the mysterious illness that has killed 360 people in China so far, the centre of the outbreak, and one in the Philippines.
Somsak Akkslim, director-general of the Medical Services Department, said the Thai Ministry of Health will meet today to discuss the successful treatment in the case of the 70-year-old, adding that it is too soon to tell if this approach can be applied to all cases.
The drug treatment includes a mixture of anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, in combination with flu drug oseltamivir in large doses, which are also being administered by Chinese health officials. The success rate of doing this in China, however, is not clear.
Somsak, who was quoted in the Reuters report, said that a similar cocktail-style administration of the three drugs has resulted in one patient displaying some allergic reactions. However, another patient showed improvement.
“We have been following international practices, but the doctor increased the dosage of one of the drugs,” Somsak said, referring to oseltamivir.
Thailand has so far recorded 19 cases of the novel coronavirus, of which eight people have recovered and been discharged from hospital. Eleven more are still under treatment.
In China, confirmed infections have exceeded 16,480, while in Malaysia, eight cases have been reported.
CodeBlue last week quoted Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, an expert in infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS treatment, as saying that there is no urgent need yet for Malaysia to use HIV drugs to treat people infected with the coronavirus, as the move is still largely experimental.
The HIV drugs used by China — a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, an HIV drug sold under the brand name Kaletra, also known as Aluvia — are not being used in Malaysia now as an ad-hoc treatment for pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said, but his ministry will keep tabs on its development all the same.