Professor Didier Raoult from infection hospital l'Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire (IHU) Méditerranée Infection in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), published a video explaining the trials on Monday March 16.
Professor Raoult is an infectious diseases specialist and head of the IHU Méditerranée Infection, who has been tasked by - and consulted by - the French government to research possible treatments of Covid-19.
He said that the first Covid-19 patients he had treated with the drug chloroquine had seen a rapid and effective speeding up of their healing process, and a sharp decrease in the amount of time they remained contagious.
Chloroquine - which is normally used mainly to prevent and treat malaria - was administered via the named drug, Plaquenil.
The treatment was offered to 24 patients, who were among the first to become infected in the south east of France, and who had voluntarily admitted themselves to hospital for the process.
Patients were given 600mcg per day for 10 days. They were closely monitored, as the drug can interact with other medication, and cause severe side effects in some cases.
Professor Raoult said: “We included everyone who was in agreement [to be treated], which was almost everyone. Two towns in the protocol, Nice and Avignon, gave us [infected] patients who had not yet received treatment.
“We were able to ascertain that patients who had not received Plaquenil (the drug containing hydroxychloroquine) were still contagious after six days, but of those that had received Plaquenil, after six days, only 25% were still contagious.”
Chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine have previously been used to treat coronavirus patients in China, in ongoing Covid-19 clinical trials.
Kaletra, a US-based antiviral drug normally used to treat HIV, is another medicine that is being tested in the fight against Covid-19.
US academic study concurs
A new academic study, published on Friday March 13 by US scientific researchers, also said that chloroquine appeared to be an effective treatment, and appears to align with the findings in France.
It said: “Use of chloroquine (tablets) is showing favorable outcomes in humans infected with Coronavirus including faster time to recovery and shorter hospital stay…
“Research shows that chloroquine also has strong potential as a prophylactic (preventative) measure against coronavirus in the lab, while we wait for a vaccine to be developed.
“Chloroquine is an inexpensive, globally available drug that has been in widespread human use since 1945 against malaria, autoimmune and various other conditions…[it] can be prescribed to adults and children of all ages.
"It can also be safely taken by pregnant women and nursing mothers [and] has been widely used to treat human diseases, such as malaria, amoebiosis, HIV, and autoimmune diseases, without significant detrimental side effects.”
Researchers worldwide are continuing to work on developing a vaccine against Covid-19.
So far, no country - nor the World Health Organisation (WHO) - has officially published treatment measures against Covid-19, but in China and South Korea, guidelines already outline the use of chloroquine as an “effective treatment”, the study report said.
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The French government has issued health advice to help stop the virus from spreading.
This advice includes:
- Stay at home, except in exceptional circumstances.
- Keep a 1 metre distance between yourself and others when you are out.
- Wash your hands with soap or hydro-alcoholic sanitiser gel frequently.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands.
- Use single use tissues and dispose immediately after use.
- Do not shake hands, or greet people with kisses on the cheek.
- If you are sick, everyone in the household must stay at home, and avoid any trips outdoors, and wear a mask in the company of others.
If you believe you are sick, do not go to the hospital or visit your local doctor as you may infect others. Instead call your local doctor and take paracetamol for the fever. Do not take anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or cortisone to treat the possible symptoms of Covid-19 as these could actually worsen the infection.
If you have returned from a high risk area, including China (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao); Singapore, South Korea, Iran or the Lombardy and Veneto regions of Italy, and present symptoms of respiratory infection such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing within 14 days of your return, call your local GP.
Do not go to your local hospital or doctor, or call the Samu 15 number except in a genuine, life-threatening emergency.
A free hotline service can answer your questions about the coronavirus Covid-19 non-stop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 0800 130 000. It cannot give medical advice.
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