Doctors hope malaria drug proves effective against COVID-19

TOLEDO (WTVG) - Hydroxychloroquine is a drug used to treat Malaria and other autoimmune disorders. Now, could it be used to treat Covid-19?

That's what the medical world is feverishly working to find out.

Dr. Diane Cappelletty, chairman of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at The University of Toledo, said it's hopeful but science has to vet it out before it's declared a cure.

"Hydroxychloroquine binds to receptors that are on the surface of the virus, and those receptors are needed by the virus to attach to human cells to be able to infect them," Cappelletty said. "So with the hydroxychloroquin bound to the receptor, the virus cannot bind to your cells and cannot infect your cells then."

But the potential is anecdotal to this point for it's effectiveness against COVID-19. There's differences with drugs in how they work in the test tube environment versus how they work in the human body.

"So questions of, are we getting enough drug concentration where the virus is to block it from entering those cells is something that we don't have great answers to," Cappelletty said.

The one thing needed to prove it can be widely used safely is time. And we don't have any with this pandemic.

"Part of the question that's difficult to answer right now is for people who are severely ill, is it too late when we start the drug, do we need to start the drug sooner," Cappelletty said.

"Timing issues really are going to play an important role as well. And there's just questions that it's going to take a little more time for the physicians and the researchers to answer well for us."