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Coronavirus shield drug could be trialled on Victorian healthcare workers in four weeks

A drug that may provide a protective shield stopping people from getting COVID-19 could be available to frontline healthcare workers within months.

Researchers at Victoria’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute are testing the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, to protect people from contracting coronavirus when exposed to it.

Infectious disease physician from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Marc Pellegrini, said the clinical trial of the drug on Victorian frontline healthcare workers could begin in four weeks.

“We would have some indicative results within about three to four months after the trial starts,” he told 3AW’s Ross and John.

“Then it opens up the possibility of using it on many people who are the most vulnerable in the community.”

Researchers around the world are also experimenting with the use of the drug on people who are already showing symptoms of coronavirus.

“We’re all scrambling to try and do our bit,” Dr Pellegrini said.

The drug differs from a vaccine in that, if it works, it will need to be taken daily to provide protection against COVID-19.

Hydroxychloroquine is closely related to Chloroquine, another anti-malarial drug also being investigated for its potential use in fighting the spread of coronavirus, but early results indicate it is more effective in curbing the spread of the virus.

“It is very, very well tolerated by people,” he said.

“Chloroquine is a little bit harder to handle and we think this drug here actually works a little bit better in the test tube.”

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