• Under the microscope

    Under the microscope

    The third phase of a drug trial to test its efficacy in treating high-risk COVID-19 patients is under way at a Cape Town hospital.

    Researchers at Groote Schuur Hospital are working to determine if nitazoxanide, an anti-diarrhoea drug, can improve the outcome of patients, as part of a ZAR25 million trial co-funded by the South African Medical Research Council and Xylomed Pharmaceuticals.

    According to principal investigator Keertan Dheda, the trial is expected to determine whether COVID-19 patients who receive nitazoxanide are less likely to progress to severe illness, as reported by Business Day. Dheda, head of pulmonology at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town, adds that ‘the two major unanswered questions in the COVID-19 field are “can we find an effective antiviral that improves outcomes?”, and “what is the timing of giving such a treatment?”’.

    More than 900 adult volunteers are expected to be enrolled in the trial, which will take place at four venues around the country. The trial will be conducted on patients who have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 (and within five days of symptoms onset), who have not been admitted to hospital and who are at higher risk of severe illness.

    In addition to Groote Schuur Hospital, the trial will be conducted at sites in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with results expected in the next three to four months.

    1 September 2020
    Image: Gallo/Getty Images