WATCHING CLOSELY: Grenada monitoring use of HIV drugs to treat coronavirus

Grenadian health authorities Tuesday said they were monitoring the results of clinical research being undertaken by China to treat persons infected with the coronavirus (Covid-19) with Kaletra, a medication normally used to treat HIV patients.

Kaletra belongs to a class of drugs known as protease inhibitors, which block a key enzyme that helps viruses replicate.

“This is a virus and so antibiotics are not used to treat it, it cannot be used for it, there is some research out there that suggests that the anti-retroviral medicine Kaletra can be used to treat the coronavirus and we are looking at that research very closely,” said Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Francis Martin.

He told reporters that “if the research seems to suggest that the coronavirus can indeed be treated with Kaletra we are going to be able to treat those in Grenada.

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“I confirmed yesterday that we have quite a number of thousands of tablets of Kaletra on the island, that can be used and will be used to treat any person who has coronavirus in Grenada once the research has confirmed that Kaletra can be used,” Martin said, while providing updates on actions taken by Grenada since World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a health epidemic.

More than 1,000 people have died in China, the epicentre of the outbreak and medical researchers in Beijing have previously found the drug to be effective in treating another coronavirus.

A combination of the two drugs that make up Kaletra, lopinavir and ritonavir, administered to patients with SARS showed a “substantial clinical benefit,” or fewer adverse clinical outcomes, according to a 2004 study published in the Thorax medical journal.

Health Minister Nickolas Steele gave the assurance that if needs be, Grenada will also have access to The Recombinant Interferon Alpha 2B (IFNrec), an antiviral produced by the Cuban biotech industry that is being used by Chinese doctors to treat patients infected by the Covid-19 virus.

The Chief Medical Officer said Grenada currently has swabs that can be used to get samples once a person is classified as a suspected case.

“We can use it to get samples and CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency) will be able to test, so Grenada will be using CARPHA for the testing of coronavirus,” he added.

Grenada has four persons in quarantine and Martin said that the first-person will soon be released from the 14 days seclusion.