Azithromycin: What you need to know about this potential COVID-19 drug
Scientists in the US have started a clinical trial to check how azithromycin works in combination with the pneumonia drug atovaquone.
After hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and remdesivir, azithromycin has gotten the most attention as a possible treatment for COVID-19 . The drug was initially proposed to be given along with HCQ. However, scientists in the US have also started a clinical trial to check how azithromycin works in combination with the pneumonia drug atovaquone.
Meanwhile, a lot of pharmaceutical firms in Gujarat are reportedly moving towards the manufacture of azithromycin and HCQ. Gujarat’s Food and Drug Control Administration has approved 37 firms to manufacture azithromycin.
Azithromycin is an antibiotic drug that stops the growth of bacteria. It is used to treat various kinds of bacterial infections including pneumonia, some sexually transmitted diseases, bronchitis and certain infections of the ear, throat, lungs, and sinuses. Azithromycin is sometimes used to treat pertussis. This drug does not work for viral infections like cold or flu according to the US National Library of Medicine.
However, preliminary studies show that azithromycin is effective against the Zika and Ebola viruses.
Some people are allergic to azithromycin and this drug is generally not given to those with liver conditions like jaundice.
Azithromycin for COVID-19 treatment
Various studies have been done so far to test the effectiveness of azithromycin in combination with HCQ for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. In March, a study done in France suggested that azithromycin supplemented the effects of HCQ in reducing viral load in COVID-19 patients.
However, another French study and a study done in the USA said that the combination of the two drugs was ineffective.
The US study is still in the preprint phase and is yet to be peer-reviewed.
On May 14, a press release by the National Institute of Health (NIH) announced that they are enrolling 2,000 people for their clinical trial on the efficiency of HCQ and azithromycin combination. For enrollment in the study, a person should be a confirmed coronavirus patient with symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. The NIH investigators anticipate that pregnant and breastfeeding women and people above the age of 60 with comorbidities will all be enrolled in the study.
Earlier in April researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute had started a clinical trial to test the combination of azithromycin with the pneumonia drug atovaquone.
It is a small non-randomised trial, for which the Insitute will enrol 25 people confirmed with COVID-19 infection. All the patients would be given 750mg of oral atovaquone for up to 10 days every 12 hours along with 500mg azithromycin on day 1 and 250mg azithromycin once a day for the following 9 days. The results of the study are to be expected by October 2020.
Atovaquone is an antiprotozoal drug. It blocks the growth of certain protozoans that cause pneumonia. It is also used to treat other parasitic diseases like malaria, toxoplasmosis and babesiosis. In lab studies, atovaquone has shown action against the Zika virus.
Unlike HCQ, atovaquone does not have serious side effects. However, this drug may cause an allergic reaction in some and is not recommended for patients with kidney damage.
For more information, read our article on Drugs that are being repurposed for COVID-19 treatment.
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