Can a malaria drug combat coronavirus? Researchers want to find out

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A team of researchers from the University of Manitoba are part of a collaborative effort by universities across three provinces to test a malaria drug’s efficiency in combating COVID-19.

“Our health system may become overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and currently there’s no known treatment other than supportive care,” said Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, associate professor of internal medicine at the U of M’s Max Rady College of Medicine.

“This trial is important, because it will be the first inter-provincial COVID-19 clinical trial open in Canada, and it is squarely focused on flattening the curve.”

Zarychanski and the team from the U of M are joining researchers from McGill University and the University of Alberta to study whether hydroxychloroquine — a Health Canada-approved drug which has been used to treat malaria for more than a half-century — will have an effect on trial participants who have tested positive for COVID-19.

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People who live with others who have tested positive, as well as healthcare workers who were exposed to COVID-19 patients can also participate in the clinical trials.

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“Preliminary studies have strongly suggested that hydroxychloroquine can reduce the ability of the virus to replicate,” said Zarychanski.

“It’s not known if it has the same effect in humans, but it’s the team’s goal to find out.”

The trials began March 26 in Manitoba and Quebec, and similar trials are also underway in the United States. Alberta and other provinces are expected to join within a few days.

If you think you might be eligible for the clinical trial and want to participate, visit to take a screening questionnaire.

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