Spain’s Testing If PrEP Can Help Prevent COVID-19

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Could Truvada be the answer we’re all looking for?

A new clinical trial is happening in Spain that’s trying to find out if Truvada, one of the drugs used for PrEP and HIV prevention, can fight off COVID-19 infection. According to the South Florida Gay News, the study began on April 1 and will continue into the summer. Researchers at Ramón y Cajal University Hospital in Madrid are running the clinical trial. Plus, it’s sponsored by the Spanish National AIDS Plan, which is a subsection of the Spanish government.

Joining those researchers are an estimated 4,000 participants, who are all medical workers aged 18 to 65. Over a 12-week span, these medical workers will receive daily doses of Truvada components Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate and Emtricitabine. They’ll also receive another drug named Hydroxychloroquine and placebos. The test is to see if taking PrEP can help protect medical workers on the front lines of the pandemic from coronavirus infection.

But why are researchers so focused on Truvada? According to the study’s current abstract, it’s because there is already evidence that the medicine is effective against similar diseases to COVID-19. Specifically, HIV treatment drugs have previously been used to treat other viral diseases like hepatitis B and severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS. The latter of which is caused by a coronavirus similar to COVID-19.

“Existing recent and scarce literature shows that RNA synthesis nucleos(t)ide analogue inhibitors, acting as viral RNA chain terminators, like TDF, abacavir or lamivudine, amongst others, could have an effect against SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the abstract states.

The anti-retroviral drug Truvada, which is a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine. / Image via Jeffrey Beall (CC)

This isn’t the first time that we’ve shared news of researchers testing the effect of HIV prevention and treatment drugs on the coronavirus. Last month, we shared with you information about several similar studies being conducted around the subject.

For instance, Thai doctors have used a combination of HIV treatment drugs lopinavir, ritonavir, and a flu drug to help treat a Chinese coronavirus patient. The patient then tested negative for the virus within two days of treatment. Also, Japanese healthcare professionals gave a patient lopinavir and ritonavir. Within five days of that, the patient’s fever went down enough to warrant being discharged from the hospital.

However, more research is needed in order to ensure the safety of these treatments. As such, it looks like we’re nowhere near finished in this race to find a vaccine and/or treatment for COVID-19. But, it looks like the HIV/AIDS pandemic is giving us a tangible direction in that fight.

Sources: South Florida Gay News

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