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French expert says malaria drug helps fight coronavirus

By: Team Ifairer | Posted: 30-03-2020
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French expert says malaria drug helps fight coronavirus
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The controversial French professor who believes the anti-malaria drug chloroquine can help beat the coronavirus, has claimed that a new study he has conducted confirms its "efficiency" at combatting the virus. But several other scientists and critics of microbiologist Didier Raoult, who heads the infectious diseases department of La Timone hospital in Marseille, were quick to cast doubt upon his findings.

They said the testing was not carried out in a controlled study and that the results were purely "observational". Dr Raoult, whose theory has been taken up by US President Donald Trump, said his new study of 80 patients showed that four out of five of those treated with the drug had "favourable" outcomes.

He had earlier reported that after treating 24 patients for six days with hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, the virus disappeared in all but a quarter of them. The research has not yet been peer reviewed nor formally published in a medical journal.

No stranger to controversy, the colourful scientist with shoulder-length blond hair and grey beard, insists that the Chinese pulmonary expert Zhong Nanshan observed a similar pattern. Raoult's critics have pointed to problems with the protocol of his testing and worrying side effects of the drug.

Fakemed, a group of scientists against fake news in health, lambasted the 68-year-old professor. After Raoult released his latest findings on the internet over the weekend, Professor Francois Balloux of University College, London, tried to dampen talk that the drug could be a silver bullet.

"No, (this is) not ‘huge' I'm afraid," he said on Twitter. "This is an observational study (i.e. not controlled) following 80 patients with fairly mild symptoms. The majority of patients recover form #COVID19 infection, with or without #Hchloroquine and #Azithromycin treatment." Statistician Tim Morris of the university's clinical trials unit was even more scathing.
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