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Filipino scientist talks up possible Covid-19 cure

Dominican microbiologist says French use of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is showing positive results

Filipino scientist talks up possible Covid-19 cure

A nurse at a Manila hospital inserts a needle into the arm of a patient who has recovered from the coronavirus. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 08, 2020 05:31 AM GMT

Updated: June 08, 2020 05:37 AM GMT

A Filipino-born Dominican microbiologist has claimed that a Covid-19 vaccine may be on the way due to the positive impacts of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in treating patients in France.

Father Nicanor Austriaco, a member of the Order of Preachers, said he was surprised by a New York Times report saying the use of existing drugs such as hydroxychloroquine was unproven in treating coronavirus patients.

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug usually used to prevent or treat malaria. French experts conducted an experiment in May showing good clinical outcomes and a virological cure obtained by treating 973 out of 1,061 patients.

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“As a molecular biologist, what is so exciting for me about this claim is that the clinical trial in France was pretty good given the extreme circumstances,” said the priest, who received his bioengineering degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his doctorate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

“It showed that HCQ significantly shortened the time for the patient to clear the virus from his or her system,” said Father Austriaco in a blog.

Father Austriaco had referred to a French experiment that showed that administering HCQ before Covid-19 complications occurred was safe and associated with a very low fatality rate in patients.

“With a safe dosage, HCQ concentration in the tissues is likely to be achieved to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Father Austriaco added.

Father Austriaco told UCA news that an HCQ-based vaccine would be beneficial to all Filipinos because HCQ is cheap and readily available in Philippine pharmacies.

“Remember we have so many drug stores here in Manila. Anyone can easily walk along the street to buy a 200-milligram pill for 85 pesos (US$1.70). I hope we can discover the vaccine immediately because it is not a joke to have Covid-19 in the Philippines,” he told UCA News.

On April 7, Filipino coronavirus survivor Julieta Alunan showed the press her hospital bill after being infected. She said the hospital charged her 1.3 million pesos (US$26,000) for 15 days of confinement in a Manila hospital.

“Getting cured in the Philippines is not cheap. One may survive but be left penniless at the end. I hope the drug Father Austriaco mentioned can come really soon because many [Filipino] people need it,” Alunan told UCA news.

“People are dying not only because there is no vaccine but because they have no money to go to hospitals to be tested. We need a cure or a vaccine that is affordable as it is the poor who are really suffering today.” 

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