Thai doctors find potential treatment for new coronavirus

As doctors and public health workers around the world race to contain and cure the novel (new) coronavirus (2019-nCoV), doctors in Thailand appear to have found a potential remedy, combining an anti-flu medication with anti-HIV drugs to successfully treat a handful of patients.

Doctors at Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok first administered the combination therapy on a 70-year-old woman visiting Thailand from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. Thailand is at particular risk from the epidemic because of the large number of tourists from China that visit the country.

“From testing positive for ten days under our care, after applying this combination of medicine, the test result became negative within 48 hours,” said Dr. riangsak Atipornwanich, a doctor at Rajvithi Hospital. “This is not the cure, but the patient’s condition has vastly improved.”

In China, doctors are trying anti-HIV drugs to treat the coronavirus, but have not been using them in combination with the flu medication used by Thai doctors. Thai doctors are employing oseltamivir; a medicine used to treat Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS).

Officials from Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health met last week with the Rajavithi doctors to discuss scaling up the new treatment. They decided it would be used only in severe cases for now. “We still have to do more study to determine that this can be a standard treatment,” Dr. Kriangsak said.

Thailand’s public health system is one of its national strengths. The country has made significant investments in medical schools and research institutes, dispatching students and doctors overseas for advanced education, and a universal health care system.

The United Nations has praised Thailand’s public health system as a model for what developing nations can achieve.

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