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A drug called losartan might help us beat coronavirus

Published Mar 19th, 2020 3:27PM EDT
coronavirus drugs
Image: JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • Scientists from the University of Minnesota are testing the blood pressure drug losartan to see if it can prevent COVID-19 infection or reduce symptoms. 
  • The drug, which is a widely-available generic medication, may help by blocking a site on cells that is used by the virus. 
  • Doctors are also testing the malaria medication hydroxychloroquine to see if it can help stem the tide of the pandemic. 
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

A generic blood pressure medication may ultimately help doctors fight back against the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease that results from an infection. As Reuters reports, scientists at the University of Minnesota are attempting to determine whether the drug can prevent the virus from causing severe symptoms and perhaps even prevent the rapid multiplication of the virus within the body.

Losartan, also sold under the brand name Cozaar, blocks a specific receptor on cells that the virus may exploit. Preventing the virus from binding to cells could dramatically alter the recovery time of a patient with the virus or even curb the spread of the pandemic as a whole. First, however, we need to know that it works.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the globe is hardly surprising when looking at the data related to the virus and our response to it. It’s highly contagious and those infected with the virus can remain free of symptoms for weeks before appearing ill. During this time, the virus spreads easily, and you’d never even know that you were spreading the disease to others.

Thus far, our response to the pandemic has been to test symptomatic people and issue lockdowns and quarantines while advising social distancing to even those who appear healthy. However, without known who has it and who doesn’t, these measures might not be enough to prevent the virus from wreaking havoc for the foreseeable future.

Because of this, scientists are scrambling to find a way to curb the number of new cases in any way they can. In addition to testing the blood pressure drug losartan, scientists are testing hydroxychloroquine, a malaria medication, to see if it, too, can help prevent infections or shorten recovery times. Trials are currently underway, but it may be weeks before we know the results.

If either of these drugs proves effective, the next step is ensuring that they’re safe to be used for this new purpose. This is especially true in the case of losartan, which affects blood pressure. Preventing a COVID-19 infection isn’t beneficial if that treatment produces potentially life-threatening side effects anyway.

While we wait to hear the results of these trials from scientists it’s important that we all follow social distancing recommendations and avoid large gatherings of people. If you can stay home, do so, but if not, wash your hands frequently and do your best to keep your distance from others.

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