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A woman wearing a mask in Beijing recently as a precaution against the coronavirus. Photo: EPA-EFE

China coronavirus: Beijing confirms use of anti-HIV drugs at some hospitals

  • Three Beijing hospitals have started treating patients with the anti-HIV drugs Lopinavir and Ritonavir
  • Deaths in China from the rapidly spreading coronavirus infection have risen

Beijing’s government announced on Sunday that some of the city’s hospitals are giving patients infected with the Wuhan coronavirus medication used to treat HIV, part of efforts to stop the spread of the deadly illness.

“Online rumors say that an anti-Aids drug has been used and proved to be effective in treating the coronavirus,” according to a statement by Beijing Municipal Health Commission. “The National Health Commission has recommended the rumored names to treat the coronavirus before and we have Lopinavir/Ritonavir in stock in Beijing,”

Three Beijing hospitals designated to treat confirmed coronavirus cases – Beijing Ditan Hospital, Beijing Youan Hospital, and No 5 Medical Center of PLA General Hospital – have begun using this therapy for treatment, the statement added.

The two drugs are antiretrovirals, which block the ability of HIV to bind with healthy cells and reproduce, and are often used in combination to treat the illness.

New research on 41 Wuhan coronavirus cases in China published in Friday’s edition of The Lancet medical journal noted “substantial clinical benefit” from use of the medication in treatment of Sars, a coronavirus epidemic that swept through China in 2002 and 2003.

However, the authors – experts from numerous medical research institutes in mainland China – also said no such treatment method had been proven.

“No antiviral treatment for coronavirus infection has been proven to be effective,” according to the article published in The Lancet. “In a historical control study, the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir among SARS-CoV patients was associated with substantial clinical benefit (fewer adverse clinical outcomes).”

By Saturday, 51 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been confirmed in Beijing. Of these, two have been cured, and the other 49 remain hospitalised, with one in critical condition.

Coronavirus infections surpass 1,900 as China appoints top-level crisis team

Deaths caused by the rapidly spreading coronavirus infection that began in China’s Hubei province has risen to more than 50, while the number of confirmed cases nationwide surpassed 1,900, authorities said on Sunday.

Confirmed cases have emerged in all of mainland China’s provinces and municipalities except Tibet Autonomous Region.

The new pneumonia-like illness has spread to other parts of Asia, the United States, Australia, and France.

On Saturday, Zhong Nanshan, who is heading an expert team established by the Beijing government to try to control the contagion, told the official Guangzhou Daily that drugs to treat the Wuhan coronavirus were available and safe, “but their effectiveness will need to be observed”.

Zhong didn’t give the details of the medications and said early detection and quarantine was still the best preventive method.

“If affected patients are quarantined in time, patient numbers in the latter stage will decline greatly,” he was quoted as saying.

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