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UK launching human trials for COVID-19 treatment

Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 12:14 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A new study for a COVID-19 treatment is underway at the University of Kentucky.

The program uses a plant extract grown in Kentucky and it is now heading into human trials.

“I think one of the attractive features here, is that you have a drug that’s already used in many people against malaria and it’s safe and secondly it can be produced in very large quantities, possibly in many countries locally,” said Dr. Peter Seeberger, Max Planck Institute.

If human trials are successful, then it could mean that scientists have discovered a treatment for COVID-19 that can tick a number of boxes, is widely available, relatively inexpensive and effective.

“What we can establish here, is that there is antiviral activity and we have things that we know are safe to use in people and that’s why we’re now able to go and perform these human clinical trials,” said Dr. Kerry Gilmore, Max Planck Institute.

The plant in question is called Artemisia Annua. It’s a type of sweet wormwood that’s been used as a natural treatment for infections for years and it’s commonly used to help prevent malaria.

A group of scientists took this extract and combined it with things like coffee, tea, and water then allowed it to interact with the virus.

“What it wants you to see with the dots and triangles is that you have a low number,” said Dr. Jill Kolesar, University of Kentucky. “So, for example, if you look at Panel B, the artemisinin and the coffee, you can see on the far right side of that diagram that the virus is almost gone with that concentration.”

Human trials will be handled as part of UK’s Rapid Assessment Research for COVID-19 treatments, which is already ongoing.

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