Hydroxychloroquine does not counter SARS-CoV-2 in hamsters, high dose of favipiravir does: study — ScienceDaily
Virologists from the KU Leuven Rega Institute in Belgium have shown that a treatment with the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine does not limit SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus replication in hamsters. A high dose of the anti-flu drug favipiravir, by contrast, has an antiviral effect in the hamsters. The team published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Virologists at the KU Leuven Rega Institute have been working on two lines of SARS-CoV-2 research: searching for a vaccine to prevent infection, and testing existing drugs to see which one can reduce the amount of virus in infected people.
To test the efficacy of the vaccine and antivirals preclinically, the researchers use hamsters. The rodents are particularly suitable for SARS-CoV-2 research because the virus replicates itself strongly in hamsters after infection. Moreover, hamsters develop a lung pathology similar to mild COVID-19 in humans. This is not the case with mice, for example.
For this study, the team of Suzanne Kaptein (PhD), Joana Rocha-Pereira (PhD), Professor Leen Delang, and Professor Johan Neyts gave the hamsters either hydroxychloroquine or favipiravir — a broad-spectrum antiviral drug used in Japan to treat influenza — for four to five days. They tested several doses of favipiravir. The hamsters were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in two ways: by inserting a high dose of virus directly into their noses or by putting a healthy hamster in a cage with an infected hamster. Drug treatment was started one hour before the direct infection or one day before the exposure to an infected hamster. Four days after infection or exposure, the researchers measured how much of the virus was present in the hamsters.
Hydroxychloroquine versus favipiravir
Treatment with hydroxychloroquine had no impact: the virus levels did not decrease and the hamsters were still infectious. “Despite the lack