The flu medicine favipiravir in high doses has a virus-inhibiting effect in hamsters infected with the corona virus. This is evident from a study by virologists at the Rega Institute in Leuven. Hydroxychloroquine had no effect on the bugs, KU Leuven reports.
In addition to a vaccine, the virologists at the Rega Institute are also looking for an existing antiviral agent that has an anti-virus effect on people infected with the corona virus. They work with hamsters for this. Those rodents are more suitable for this research than mice.
For a new study, the team of Johan Neyts, Suzanne Kaptein, Joana Rocha-Pereira, and Leen Delang gave hamsters hydroxychloroquine and favipiravir for several days. Various doses of favipiravir, a drug used in Japan against the flu virus, have been tested. The hamsters were infected in two ways: by administering the virus through the nose and by pairing a healthy hamster with an infected one. Four days after the infection, the researchers checked how much virus was left behind.
In the hamsters that received a high dose of favipiravir and were infected via the nose, almost no active virus was found. No infectious virus was found in the critters in a cage with infected congeners who had received the drug. That was the case with hamsters that had not been given the drug. The effect was not achieved with a low dose of favipiravir.
“It’s the high dose that makes the difference,” says Delang. “That’s important to know, because international clinical studies are being set up to test favipiravir in humans.”
The study was published in the American journal PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.