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UK has a SHORTAGE of coronavirus test kits, top doctor warns

The UK has a shortage of coronavirus tests, one of the country’s most senior doctors admitted today.

Dr Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, warned there are not enough testing kits to go around in Britain.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday promised he would ramp up the number of people who are getting swabbed for the virus to 25,000 a day.

For the past five days the UK has tested, on average, 3,700 people each day – a total the Government’s chief scientific adviser has accepted is ‘clearly not enough’.

Meanwhile, the US state of Tennessee – which has a population 10 times smaller than the UK – yesterday took delivery of 500,000 kits.

British officials have refused to reveal how many tests are on hand for NHS patients but a supply the size of Tennessee’s could last for months at the current rate of testing.

NHS staff across the country are crying out to be tested so they can be sure they’re safe to work around patients and an online petition calling for this to happen has been signed by almost a million people.

Speaking to Sky News, Dr Marshall said: ‘At the moment there is a shortage of available testing kits for the conventional test that’s currently being used. Hopefully that will improve over the next few weeks.’

Dr Marshall and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) are calling for NHS staff to be tested as routine to make sure they don’t have to take time off work unless they’re definitely ill.

Dr Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, said there is a 'shortage of available testing kits' in the UKD

Dr Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, said there is a ‘shortage of available testing kits’ in the UKD

Health service staff numbers dropping is a major fear for officials dealing with the epidemic. 

It would make the impact of the coronavirus considerably worse because hospitals would be totally overwhelmed and unable to care for patients.

For this reason schools are being kept open for the children of NHS staff and recently retired employees are being allowed to return to work.

Dr Marshall added: ‘Routine testing of health professional staff isn’t available…

‘This should be a priority because there are a lot of my colleagues who are at home unable to work or perhaps only able to work on the telephone when they really want to be out there supporting their teams.

‘They’re doing that because they simply don’t know whether they’ve got the virus.’ 

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government's chief scientific adviser, has admitted that the current rate of coronavirus testing in the UK 'clearly is not going to be enough going forward'

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, has admitted that the current rate of coronavirus testing in the UK ‘clearly is not going to be enough going forward’

Two men wearing suits were pictured carrying a box from ThermoFisher – which makes coronavirus tests that give results in four hours – outside Downing Street this week

Two men wearing suits were pictured carrying a box from ThermoFisher – which makes coronavirus tests that give results in four hours – outside Downing Street this week 

UK ROW OVER CORONAVIRUS TESTING 

WHAT IS THE UK DOING NOW?

Around 5,000 tests are being carried out a day. 

Those are mostly patients who are already in hospital. 

Some 100 GP surgeries have agrees to carry out tests on patients, as part of surveillance to asses the prevalence. 

However, those who feel they have symptoms are being told to self-isolate without being routinely tested.

WHAT IS THE UK GOING TO DO?

Boris Johnson has vowed to increase tests to 25,000 a day, although it could take four weeks to reach that level.

He also said that health workers will be prioritised. Many have complained that they are being forced to stop work as they are unsure whether or not they have the disease.

The testing will be carried out in hospitals, but ministers have appealed for firms to help develop a swab test that can be used in the community. 

WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?

The message from the World Health Organisation is ‘test test test’, to avoid trying to fight an outbreak ‘blindfolded’. South Korea says it has got on top of an outbreak with stringent testing. 

The Government is also facing growing pressure to test more members of the public to try and get a grip on the true scale of the crisis.  

Currently, only severely ill patients and people who are already in hospital are being routinely tested – but even Downing Street’s own chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, has admitted that this is insufficient.

Speaking to MPs yesterday, Sir Patrick said of the current limit of 4,000 tests per day: ‘That clearly is not going to be enough going forward.

‘We really do need to get our testing in the right place to ensure we can monitor this effectively… There is a very big effort going on to try to ramp that up.’ 

At Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Johnson insisted that the UK was already carrying out more tests that other ‘comparable’ countries.   

‘This country is actually far ahead of many other comparable countries. We are increasing our tests from 5,000 to 10,000 a day,’ he said.

He added later: ‘We are moving up to 25,000 a day.’ 

Professor Hugh Pennington, an infection expert at the University of Aberdeen, told The Times: ‘Ramping up tenfold should be possible by the end of the week.’

He said using the testing machines was ‘probably no more difficult than working a dishwasher’. 

The Government had told the public last week that it was ‘no longer necessary’ to test everyone suspected of having the coronavirus and that people with a mild illness should just stay home and wait for their symptoms to blow over, without ever knowing for sure if they had COVID-19.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical adviser to Boris Johnson, said this was to enable testing capacity to ‘pivot’ specifically to people in hospitals.

Shortly after, however, the director of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made a veiled jibe at the UK when he urged every country must ‘test, test, test’.

‘You can’t fight a virus if you don’t know where it is,’ he said at a press conference.

‘Find, isolate, test and treat every case to break the chains of COVID transmission. Every case we find and treat limits the expansion of the disease.

The UK's coronavirus outbreak has spiralled out of control and London is at the centre of an epidemic of thousands or tens of thousands of infected people. Around 900 people in the city have been officially diagnosed (Pictured, central London was bereft of traffic this morning)

The UK’s coronavirus outbreak has spiralled out of control and London is at the centre of an epidemic of thousands or tens of thousands of infected people. Around 900 people in the city have been officially diagnosed (Pictured, central London was bereft of traffic this morning)

Sainsbury's in Northwich, Cheshire, opened early for pensioners today so they could do their shopping before the shelves get ransacked. As shoppers continue to panic buy

Sainsbury’s in Northwich, Cheshire, opened early for pensioners today so they could do their shopping before the shelves get ransacked

Some of the holidaymakers who had been trapped on the Braemar cruise ship in Cuba are pictured walking home through Heathrow Airport this morning after flying home

Some of the holidaymakers who had been trapped on the Braemar cruise ship in Cuba are pictured walking home through Heathrow Airport this morning after flying home

TESTING STOPPED THE VIRUS IN A SMALL ITALIAN TOWN 

Italian authorities have managed to contain the killer coronavirus outbreak in a small town near Venice through a rigorous testing strategy.

Health bosses in Vò – 45miles (72km) east of the tourist hotspot – have had no new cases for 48 hours.

Officials conducted an experiment in the town, which is home to 3,300 people, to test and re-test all inhabitants.

The Financial Times reports the strategy meant everyone would be tested – even if they showed no symptoms.

Andrea Crisanti, an infectious disease specialist taking part in the experiment, told the newspaper the method allowed officials to get the clearest picture about the size of the outbreak.

The experiment began at the end of February, and the initial roll-out of tests showed around three per cent of patients were infected.

This dropped ten-fold when the second testing round was carried out 10 days later, after quarantining all of the infected and their contacts.

Professor Crisanti, who is on a sabbatical at the University of Padua, said: ‘In the UK, there are a whole lot of infections that are completely ignored.

‘We were able to contain the outbreak [in Vò] because we identified and eliminated the ‘submerged’ infections and isolated them. This is what makes the difference.

‘Do not just let this fire burn. Any country that looks at the experience of other countries with large epidemics and thinks “that won’t happen to us” is making a deadly mistake.’ 

The US has also been strongly condemned for its failure to get enough tests in place before the outbreak exploded out of control – something Donald Trump’s administration is now scrambling to correct.

The US Air Force flew 500,000 coronavirus testing kits to the country from Italy yesterday as the confirmed number of cases surpassed 7,800 and the number of deaths hit 121. 

The plane took off from Aviano Air Base, in northern Italy, on Monday afternoon.

It touched down in Memphis, Tennessee with a person on board who shared an image online with the caption ‘got to be part of something special last night’. 

Showing the precious cargo stretched across the aircraft, the caption highlighted that ‘these pallets right here are 500,000 covid-19 testing kits that the aircrew I was a part of’ had responsibility for, according to the poster.   

DefenseOne.com reports that the authenticity of the post has been verified.

Air Force chief of staff, General David Goldfein, has not confirmed the shipment mentioned in the social media post but said in a press conference Wednesday: ‘We’ve just made a pretty significant movement into Memphis.’

Defense One reported the C-17 aircraft touched down at Memphis International Airport which is a major FedEx hub that would allow onward commercial flights to carry the kits around the rest of the country.

The US Air Force flew 500,000 coronavirus testing kits from Italy Monday and landed in Tennessee Tuesday. One of the crew shared an image online and captioned it: 'Got to be part of something special last night'

The US Air Force flew 500,000 coronavirus testing kits from Italy Monday and landed in Tennessee Tuesday. One of the crew shared an image online and captioned it: ‘Got to be part of something special last night’

Defense One reports the C-17 aircraft touched down at Memphis International Airport (pictured) which is a major FedEx hub that would allow onward commercial flights to carry the kits around the rest of the country

Defense One reports the C-17 aircraft touched down at Memphis International Airport (pictured) which is a major FedEx hub that would allow onward commercial flights to carry the kits around the rest of the country

Test by test: The types of coronavirus kits from 10-minute finger-prick results to a mask which can diagnose instantly that the government could be using amid row over shortage – as PM brands impending antibody check a ‘game changer’

Boris Johnson yesterday announced that coronavirus testing was to be ramped up to 25,000 per day after the government was slammed for potentially allowing tens of thousands of infected people to walk the streets undiagnosed.

Only 5,000 were being swabbed for COVID-19 previously, a fraction of the number seen elsewhere. It comes as the number of positive tests for the virus reached 2,626 while the death toll jumped last night by 33 to 104. 

Mr Johnson said a new ‘game changing’ coronavirus test which analyses antibodies in the blood could detect asymptomatic patients and those who have already shrugged off the bug. 

The Prime Minister said this would allow people to know whether they had gained immunity and get back to their working and social lives as soon as possible.   

Public Health England previously said that only patients who meet certain criteria will be able to be tested for the bug and those who were being screened were having nasal swabs. 

The Prime Minister conceded that the NHS will continue to use nasal swab tests that take up to 48 hours to be analysed in a lab.  

Other countries around the world – including the US, China, South Korea, Japan and Italy – have been using testing kits that take just minutes to produce results. 

And in a further development, Oxford University researchers claimed that they have created a new test which analyses viral RNA to detect COVID-19 in just 30 minutes.

Here, MailOnline looks at the cutting-edge testing kits currently being rolled out in other counties and at private clinics in Britain: 

BioMedomics claims its test can screen for coronavirus in 15 minutes using a small drop of blood and a tiny device that can be carried into the field

BioMedomics claims its test can screen for coronavirus in 15 minutes using a small drop of blood and a tiny device that can be carried into the field

FINGER PRINT TEST

Name: COVID-19 IgM IgG Rapid Test

Manufacturers: BioMedomics

Diagnostic time: 15 minutes 

The blood test is not being used in the UK, despite health bodies in China, Italy and Japan diagnosing patients with it.

On March 5, BioMedomics claimed its ‘quick and easy’ test was ready and being used in South Korea, Japan, Italy, China and some countries in the Middle East. 

After the sample of blood is collected, a technician injects it into the analysis device – which is about the size of an Apple TV or Roku remote – along with some buffer, and waits 15 minutes.

One line means negative, two lines in a spread-out configuration means the sample contains antibodies that the body starts making shortly after infection.

A blood sample is collected, inserted into the reader, a buffer is combined, and results come back within 15 minutes, the company claims

A blood sample is collected, inserted into the reader, a buffer is combined, and results come back within 15 minutes, the company claims 

Two lines closer together mean the person is positive for the later-stage antibodies, and three lines mean the patient is positive for both types of antibodies.  

A small study showed the test produced a correct response 80 per cent of the time.

PHE confirmed it was not using the advanced blood test because it was not accurate enough, and are hoping to develop their own. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also yet to approve it. 

A former PHE strategist said he was ‘not confident’ the test could produce correct results and is therefore unlikely to be rolled out. However, the method was desirable. 

NASAL SWAB

Name: TaqPath COVID-19 Combo Kit 

Manufacturers: ThermoFisher

Diagnostic time: Four hours 

The DIY test detects specific DNA given off by the coronavirus in the noses of infected patients.

Samples are then delivered to labs where they are analysed and results are produced within four hours.

The test was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration this week and 5million kits will be sent across America in the coming days.

It is hoped the UK will follow suit after representatives from ThermoFisher, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, were seen entering Downing Street last night carrying a box with the tests. 

It is understood ministers were giving a demonstration of how the test works.

FINGER PRICK TEST

Name: COVID-19 Rapid Test Cassette 

Manufacturers: SureScreen Diagnostics

Diagnostic time: Ten minutes 

The private firm, based in Derby, has created a test which can allegedly determine with 98 per cent certainty if a person is infected. 

It involves taking a blood sample via finger prick and then putting it into a screening device.

SureScreen Diagnostics says a prick of blood from the fingertip is sufficient to determine with more than 98 per cent accuracy

SureScreen Diagnostics says a prick of blood from the fingertip is sufficient to determine with more than 98 per cent accuracy

The private firm says its test has been validated and is already being used in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Turkey, UAE, Kuwait and Oman. Currently, official swap-based methods take between 24 and 48 hours for results to come back

The private firm says its test has been validated and is already being used in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Turkey, UAE, Kuwait and Oman. Currently, official swap-based methods take between 24 and 48 hours for results to come back

Public Health England cautions members of the public against using such tests amid fears they are unreliable, saying there is 'little information on the accuracy of the tests'

Public Health England cautions members of the public against using such tests amid fears they are unreliable, saying there is ‘little information on the accuracy of the tests’

Results are displayed in a similar fashion to those of an at-home pregnancy test within minutes and could potentially save delays in diagnosis. 

SureScreen says its test has been validated and is already being used by private buyers in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Turkey, UAE, Kuwait and Oman. 

It is believed around 175,000 tests have been conducted with the SureScreen kit so far. The company claims it has had over two million orders for next month. 

Director David Campbell said: ‘We’ve been working hard to produce a coronavirus test (COVID19) that can be used at the patient side, with capillary blood, easily taken from someone’s fingertip and diagnose them within 10 minutes.

‘There is a big problem with the diagnosis of the disease currently because the standard method of screening is to send samples to the laboratory, which takes a lot of time. 

‘Meanwhile, someone could be spreading the virus without knowing, or having the issue of self-isolation.’  

FACE MASK TESTS

Manufacturers: University of Leicester

Diagnostic time: 12 hours

How it works: Breath test inserted in a mask

Scientists have started a trial of the pioneering £2 gadget, which tests have already proven can detect tuberculosis, a deadly lung infection.

Scientists have started a trial of the pioneering £2 gadget (pictured), which tests have already proven can detect tuberculosis

Scientists have started a trial of the pioneering £2 gadget (pictured), which tests have already proven can detect tuberculosis

The researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Pretoria designed 3D printed strips of polyvinyl alcohol that are inserted into the mask (pictured)

The researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Pretoria designed 3D printed strips of polyvinyl alcohol that are inserted into the mask (pictured)

The masks, which could cost pennies if manufactured on a wider scale, are fitted with strips that soak up droplets from the wearer’s breath, which may be carrying traces of bacterial or viral infection.

The strips can be tested in labs with results coming back within hours. Current tests for coronavirus can take up to 48 hours. 

University of Leicester researchers believe it will be at least two months before they can test the masks on actual COVID-19 patients.

But they are hopeful it will work because it is a respiratory disease, meaning it infects the lungs and can is present in the air people breathe out.  

After 30 minutes, the strips can be tested in a laboratory (pictured)

After 30 minutes, the strips can be tested in a laboratory (pictured)

First, the team have to test the gadgets on dozens of patients with other lung infections to prove they can pick up bugs other than tuberculosis, which they were designed for.

Patients with infections such as flu and bronchitis will have the results from their mask tests compared to those from throat swabs, which are known to be accurate. 

Tests on tuberculosis patients, the only ones that have been done so far, show the masks can detect the killer disease almost 90 per cent of the time.

Leicester’s Professor Mike Barer and colleagues are hopeful they will be successful because the coronavirus infects the lungs in a similar way to tuberculosis.

BREATH TEST 

Manufacturers: Northumbria University, Newcastle

Diagnostic time: Almost instantly 

A breath test that helps rapidly identify patients with coronavirus has been developed by British scientists.

The technology, developed by a team at Northumbria University in Newcastle, is still in development and needs further testing.

But experts believe it could be quickly change the way the virus is spotted around the world. 

A breath test that helps rapidly identify patients with coronavirus has been developed by British scientists (file)

A breath test that helps rapidly identify patients with coronavirus has been developed by British scientists (file)

Dr Sterghios Moschos, right, said the test could be used to produce results in minutes

Dr Sterghios Moschos, right, said the test could be used to produce results in minutes

The Northumbria team’s test collects breath samples which can be tested separately for biological information – known as biomarkers.

These biomarkers, which include DNA, RNA, proteins and fat molecules, can spot diseases of the lung and other parts of the body.

People simply breath into the device, which is similar to a breathalyser used by the police.

Dr Sterghios Moschos, associate professor at Northumbria University, said: ‘Our ambition is to reduce the need for bloodletting for diagnosis in its broadest sense.’ 

The test is currently being trialled.  

PRIVATE HARLEY STREET CLINIC

Manufacturers: Private Harley Street Clinic

Diagnostic time: Three days

How it works: Nose and throat swab

Price: £375  

More than 2,000 people have ordered a £375 home testing kit from a Harley Street clinic in London after being turned down by the NHS, according to the Daily Telegraph.

In addition to individuals, some 60 firms including oil and telecoms companies, have bought them for their staff. 

On its website, the item can be easily 'added to cart,' much in the same way as conventional online products

On its website, the item can be easily ‘added to cart,’ much in the same way as conventional online products

Dr Mark Ali, director of the Private Harley Street Clinic on London's world-renowned medical avenue, said his practice was offering a new kit for £375 each

Dr Mark Ali, director of the Private Harley Street Clinic on London’s world-renowned medical avenue, said his practice was offering a new kit for £375 each

The test is posted to the client’s home or preferred address, where the client takes swabs from both the nostrils and throat. 

The sample is then placed in the box provided and posted back as per the instructions. 

Dr Mark Ali, director of the Private Harley Street Clinic on London’s world-renowned medical avenue, said his practice was offering a new kit for £375 each.

On its website, the item can be easily ‘added to cart,’ much in the same way as conventional online products.

The practice says the test is ‘performed by a world renown UKAS accredited British laboratory and the test results are 100% accurate and do not require further tests to confirm any diagnoses.’

The website hastens to add, that though it oversees the entire process, patients should not attempt to pick up their kits from Harley Street.

‘Please note under no circumstances can this test be done in our clinic or be collected from our clinic.’ The website states.

‘It is sent to your designated address by courier service within 48 hrs. Please refer to the details below and order through the link at the bottom of this page.’

Dr Ali told The Telegraph he has received countless requests from buyers.

‘People are worried sick. They want to get some clarity back in their lives,’ he told The Telegraph. 

‘We’ve got university students in England who want to go back to Nepal, but need to know if they have the disease so they can be let back into their own country.

‘We’ve got a businessman who owns a construction company employing 60 people. He needs to know the state of play, or he risks letting down his customers. So every single person in that company is being tested.’ 

CT SCANS

Who came up with the idea? Mount Sinai Health System, New York

Diagnostic time: 1 hour 30 minutes

How it works: Detects lung damage  

Doctors from The Mount Sinai Health System in New York say CT scans may be faster than nasal and throat swabs at diagnosing coronavirus patients. 

The team were the first in the US to analyze lung scans of patients in China with the highly contagious disease.   

They said they were able to identify specific patterns in the lungs as markers of the virus, also known as COVID-19, as it developed over the course of about two weeks>

Patients who received scans zero to two days after symptoms first appeared had little to no evidence of lung disease in their results like this 19-year-old male who had a CT scan one day after symptoms first appeared

Patients who received scans zero to two days after symptoms first appeared had little to no evidence of lung disease in their results like this 19-year-old male who had a CT scan one day after symptoms first appeared

The team said the pattern in the lung of coronavirus patients are similar to scans of patients with SARS and very different from diseases such as bacterial pneumonia (pictured)

The team said the pattern in the lung of coronavirus patients are similar to scans of patients with SARS and very different from diseases such as bacterial pneumonia (pictured)

The researchers say these quicker diagnoses could help keep patients isolated in early stages of the disease, perhaps even before symptoms appear and when it may not show up on other scans such as chest X-rays. 

‘CT scans are an extremely powerful diagnostic tool, because you can seen the inner organs in a three-dimensional way,’ lead author Dr Adam Bernheim, an assistant professor of diagnostic, molecular and interventional radiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told DailyMail.com.

‘And you can see the manifestation of many diseases.’ 

For the study, published in the journal Radiology, the team analyzed scans of 94 patients at four medical centers in four Chinese provinces.

The patients had been admitted between January 18 and February 2, and all had either recently traveled to Wuhan – the epicenter of an outbreak – or had come into contact with an infected person.

Radiologists reviewed the scan and took notes based on when symptoms first appeared and when the CT scan was performed.

Thirty-six patients received scans zero to two days after reporting symptoms and more than half showed no evidence of lung disease.

The team says this is important because it suggests that CT scans cannot reliably detect coronavirus in its very earliest stages.

Nasal and throat swabs test can identify patients even before patients become symptomatic, although some may still have the virus if they first test negative. 

Its results, however, may take days to get back from the agency’s labs.

But 33 patients who received scans three to five days after symptoms developed had patterns of ‘ground glass opacities,’ or haziness in the lungs. 

‘The lung abnormalities are very round in shape and affect the perimeter of the lung,’ co-author Dr Michael Chung, an assistant professor of diagnostic, molecular and interventional radiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told DailyMail.com.  

Flu, anti-malaria, arthritis and HIV medication: The promising therapies being tested on coronavirus patients around the world – but how many are the NHS trying?

NHS hospitals are coming under growing pressure to use experimental drugs to try and treat patients infected with the coronavirus.

Doctors and pharmaceutical firms around the world are scrambling to find a drug that can stop the deadly virus, which has now killed more than 8,200 people.

Medicines already in use for conditions ranging from HIV to rheumatoid arthritis, malaria, the flu and even Ebola are serious contenders and are being tested to see how they could help patients infected with COVID-19.

The Government has refused to confirm if any are being tested out on the 2,626 coronavirus patients in the UK – the NHS advises anyone with troublesome symptoms to take paracetamol and rest at home unless they feel life-threateningly ill.

But its medicines regulator last month banned companies from exporting three drugs – for HIV and malaria – in a bid to protect the UK’s stocks of them.

All three have been used in experimental treatments by doctors in China, raising the prospect of Britain doing the same.

Here, MailOnline reveals some of the drugs that experts believe have potential.

Chloroquine phosphate (Malaria) 

One drug being used by doctors fighting the coronavirus outbreak is chloroquine phosphate, an anti-malarial medication.

The drug – sold under the brand name Arlan – kills malaria parasites in the blood, stopping the tropical disease in its tracks.

But tests of the drug – which has been used for 70 years – on COVID-19 patients in China show it has potential in fighting the life-threatening virus.

One drug being used by doctors fighting the coronavirus outbreak is chloroquine phosphate, an anti-malarial medication. It is sold under the brand name Arlan

One drug being used by doctors fighting the coronavirus outbreak is chloroquine phosphate, an anti-malarial medication. It is sold under the brand name Arlan

Chinese officials claimed the drug ‘demonstrated efficacy and acceptable safety in treating COVID-19 associated pneumonia’.

Experts at the University of Palermo in Italy, as well as a team in Israel, collated the research on the drug in treating the coronavirus.

In their report, they claimed officials in the Netherlands already suggest treating critically-ill patients with the drug.

South Korea and China both say the drug is an ‘effective’ antiviral treatment against the disease, according to a report by US virologists.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology – in the city where the crisis began – claimed the drug was ‘highly effective’ in petri dish tests.

Tests by those researchers, as well as others, showed it has the power to stop the virus replicating in cells, and taking hold in the body.

Twenty-three clinical trials on the drug are already underway on patients in China, and one is planned in the US and another in South Korea.

University of Minnesota experts are planning to test whether the drug – sometimes given to treat lupus and arthritis – prevents the progression of COVID-19.

Chloroquine was prescribed around 46,000 times in 2018 in the UK – but it is also available over-the-counter from pharmacies without a prescription.

Professor Robin May, an infectious disease specialist at Birmingham University, said the safety profile of the drug is ‘well-established’.

He added: ‘It is cheap and relatively easy to manufacture, so it would be fairly easy to accelerate into clinical trials and, if successful, eventually into treatment.’

Professor May suggested chloroquine may work by altering the acidity of the area of cells that it attacks, making it harder for the virus to replicate. 

Hydroxychloroquine (Malaria)

Chinese scientists investigating the other form of chloroquine penned a letter to a prestigious journal saying its ‘less toxic’ derivative may also help.

Hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil, may treat COVID-19

Hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil, may treat COVID-19

In the comment to Cell Discovery – owned by publisher Nature, they said it shares similar chemical structures and mechanisms.

The team of experts added: ‘It is easy to conjure up the idea that hydroxychloroquine may be a potent candidate to treat infection by SARS-CoV-2.’ 

But the Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists admitted they are still lacking evidence to prove it is as effective as chloroquine phosphate.

Hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil, causes side effects such as skin rashes, nausea, diarrhoea and headaches.

Drug giant Sanofi carried out a study on 24 patients, which the French government described as ‘promising’.

Results showed three quarters of patients treated with the drug were cleared of the virus within six days. None of the placebo group were treated.

French health officials are now planning on a larger trial of the drug, which is used on the NHS to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis as well as malaria.

Lopinavir/ritonavir (HIV)

Lopinavir/ritonavir, marketed as Kaletra and Aluvia, is an anti-HIV medicine given to people living with the virus to prevent it developing into AIDS.

Lopinavir/ritonavir, marketed under the brand names Kaletra and Aluvia, is an anti-HIV medicine

Lopinavir/ritonavir, marketed under the brand names Kaletra and Aluvia, is an anti-HIV medicine

The drug has shown promise as a way of tackling coronavirus, scientists say, because it is able to bind to the outside of the coronavirus.

It is a class of drug called a protease inhibitor, which essentially stick to an enzyme on a virus which is vital to the virus reproducing. By doing this it blocks the process the virus would normally use to clone itself and spread the infection further.

In a clinical trial application submitted in the US from Asan Medical Center, in Seoul, South Korea, scientists said: ‘In vitro [laboratory] studies revealed that lopinavir/ritonavir [has] antiviral activity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).’

Chinese media reported that the drug was successfully used to cure patients with the coronavirus, but the reports have not been scientifically proven.

US-based manufacturer AbbVie has donated free supplies of Kaletra to health authorities in China, the US and Europe – it is not clear whether the UK is included.

The drug is available on the NHS and was prescribed around 1,400 times in 2018, either as Kaletra or ritonavir on its own.

Favipiravir (flu)

Favipiravir is the active ingredient in a flu drug called Avigan which is sold in Japan.

Doctors in China have claimed it was ‘clearly effective’ in patients with the coronavirus after they gave it to 80 people in the cities of Wuhan and Shenzen.

Favipiravir is the active ingredient in a flu drug called Avigan which is sold in Japan

Favipiravir is the active ingredient in a flu drug called Avigan which is sold in Japan

They said it sped up patients’ recovery, reduced lung damage and did not cause any obvious side effects. It is also used to treat yellow fever and foot-and-mouth.

According to local media, patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen had negative results for the coronavirus an average of four days after being diagnosed.

This compared with 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug. It is not clear what the results were of the trials in Wuhan, the worst-hit part of China.

The drug is an anti-viral medication which neutralises a vital enzyme that viruses use to reproduce. It is called a RNA polymerase inhibitor.

It is not used by the NHS. It’s produced by the Japanese company Fujifilm Toyama Chemical.

Remdesivir (Ebola)

Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug that works in essentially the same way as favipiravir – by crippling the RNA polymerase enzyme, stopping a virus from reproducing.

It was developed around 10 years ago by the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences with the intention of it destroying the Ebola virus. It was pushed aside, however, when other, better candidates emerged.

Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug that works in essentially the same way as favipiravir – by crippling the RNA polymerase enzyme, stopping a virus from reproducing

Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug that works in essentially the same way as favipiravir – by crippling the RNA polymerase enzyme, stopping a virus from reproducing

But it remained an anti-viral drug with the ability to destroy various viruses in lab tests, scientists said. Doctors in the US tried it on three hospitalised coronavirus patients but results were mixed.

The drug is now being trialled on coronavirus patients in China and at the University of Nebraska, CNN reports.

Doctors writing in a study led by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature last month, said: ‘Our findings reveal that remdesivir [is] highly effective in the control of 2019-nCoV infection in vitro.’

They added that, since the drug is proven to be safe in humans, it ‘should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease’.

Remdesivir is not prescribed on the NHS. 

Sarilumab (Rheumatoid arthritis)

Sarilumab, a rheumatoid arthritis drug which is marketed as Kevzara in the US, is set to be trialled on patients in the US

Sarilumab, a rheumatoid arthritis drug which is marketed as Kevzara in the US, is set to be trialled on patients in the US

Sarilumab, a rheumatoid arthritis drug which is marketed as Kevzara and is available to be prescribed on the NHS, is set to be trialled on patients in the US.

Pharmaceutical companies Sanofi and Regeneron plan to give the medication to people with the coronavirus to see if it can help calm their immune response.

The drug works by blocking part of the immune system which can cause inflammation, or swelling, which is overactive in people with rheumatoid arthritis. 

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Written by Angle News

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