High temperatures, saline solutions, antimalarial drug Chloroquine: Can any of these treat coronavirus?

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Some are wondering if high temperatures could kill the novel coronavirus. Credit: Pixabay.

No official treatment currently exists to treat COVID-19. In response, hospitals and companies worldwide are scrambling to develop a potential cure. 

On today’s Daily Dose, Dr. Michael Wilkes, a professor of medicine and global health from UC Davis, discusses experimental treatments in development, and dispels the myths around alternative  treatments. 

Wilkes wants to make it clear: The antimalarial drug Chloroquine, which President Donald Trump has previously stated could bea treatment for COVID-19, has not been approved by the FDA. Based on what is known about the virus, including a small trial out of Shanghai, there is no current evidence the drug is effective, he says. 

KCRW: Are there any treatments that look promising?  

One case study that’s gotten Wilkes’ attention is an experiment where convalescent plasma, taken from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, was used on sick patients. The majority of those in the study who received plasma reported their fever and respiratory distress were resolved after a few days. 

However, the treatment still needs more study, Wilkes says, which also includes the need for randomized clinical trials. 

Ineffective or even deadly treatments for illnesses throughout medical history have existed, he says. To ensure the safety of patients, the medical community has turned to blind clinical trials, where half of one group receives developmental treatment, while the other half receives usual care. 

If the proper process isn’t followed, there can be consequences, Wilkes says. If treatments aren’t studied before producing a drug, there can be side effects, including death. There’s also the matter of drug hoarding. 

Wilkes: “There are people who take [chloroquine] not for malaria, but for autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. My patients are saying that the pharmacies are telling them they're out of those medicines. So there are downstream consequences to us using drugs that just haven't been proven to work.”

What about alternative medicines?

Wikes has fielded questions from his patients about what is effective. That includes vitamin C, zinc, exposure to high temperatures, and saline solutions. 

His answer? “Not a single thing that I’ve just mentioned has been proven effective or is even thought to be effective.”