French researcher Didier Raoult is a tireless advocate of the antimalarial product chloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19.

Gaston CARRE

French researcher Didier Raoult is a tireless advocate of the antimalarial product chloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19.

No, this is not an effect of confinement: Didier Raoult has always worn long hair, and his physiognomy as a Gallic druid a little irritated. What has annoyed Didier Raoult for days?

This: the belief that there is a treatment today that can overcome Covid-19, combined with the feeling that this belief is not taken seriously by the scientific community, although the treatment in question – chloroquine – or at the center of all attention.

“Coronavirus, end of game!”

Didier Raoult is neither an enthusiast nor a lonely man. He heads, among hundreds of collaborators, the Institut hospitalier universitaire Méditerranée-Infection in Marseille, one of the most renowned centers of competence in infectiology and microbiology in the world. So it was with great interest first that we became aware of a video posted by Didier Raoult on February 26, before France even retreated into its confinement. The title of the video: “Coronavirus, end of game!”.

The researcher had taken note of the results of a clinical trial in China, showing that the administration of chloroquine induced within a few days the suppression of viral carriage in patients infected with SARS-Cov-2. More specifically, the study in question, a comparative study the results of which were published in the journal BioScience Trends, showed that “chloroquine phosphate was more effective than the treatment received by a comparative group in containing the development of pneumonia, to improve the condition of the lungs, to make the patient negative for the virus again and to shorten the duration of the illness. ”

In front of the Mediterranean-Infection University Hospital Institute, people line up to be screened by Doctor Raoult.

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Following this study, the prescription of chloroquine was incorporated into the recommendations for the treatment of coronavirus in China and South Korea, the two countries that have succeeded in controlling the epidemic. Didier Raoult has since taken a media pilgrim’s stick to defend the widespread use of chloroquine in the fight against the coronavirus. In Marseille, hundreds of people siege at the institute he heads, to be screened and, if necessary, treated with chloroquine, knowing, however, that the results obtained by Chinese researchers concerned a hundred Covid patients -19, a numerically small population from an epidemiological point of view.

The traveling companion

In Marseille, Didier Raoult obtained positive results in around 20 cases, after combining the antimalarial with an antibiotic, azythromocin. The treatment is also administered at the Nice University Hospital, notably its mayor, Christian Estrosi. At European level, a substance similar to chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, is included in the experimental treatment project called “Discovery”.

Didier Raoult has obtained positive results in around 20 cases, after combining chloroquine with an antibiotic

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In fact, chloroquine is a well-known product, especially for frequent travelers: it has been used for decades against malaria, this parasite carried by a mosquito. Its commercial names vary according to the laboratory which manufactures it, the best known being Nivaquine. The substance is effective, but its side effects are not negligible.

Trump: a “gift from heaven”

Among the most ardent promoters of chloroquine outside France: Donald Trump! The American president considers that his administration could “be a game-changer” in the fight against the virus. “There is a good chance it can have a huge impact. It would be a gift from heaven if it worked. ”

Faced with the pandemic, critics rain down on Emmanuel Macron, while the Elysée still hesitates on the extent to give to confinement.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is less enthusiastic, calling for caution in view of the small number of patients who have so far benefited from this treatment. The agency warned of the “false hopes” that the drug might arouse. “Small, non-randomized, observational studies won’t give us the answers we need,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

In France, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran announced that he was preparing to authorize treatment with hydroxychloroquine but only for severe forms and in a hospital setting “on the collegial decision of doctors”.

French Minister of Health Olivier Véran will authorize treatment with hydroxychloroquine, but only for severe forms of the disease.

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An insufficient provision for Raoult, who has withdrawn from the scientific committee which supports the French executive in decision-making in the face of the pandemic. The researcher was indeed part of this areopagus which since the beginning of the crisis advises Emmanuel Macron.

“Mimi the Amoeba”

Didier Raoult was born in 1952 in Dakar, Senegal. Son of a military doctor, he has practiced in Marseille for over thirty years. Father of two children, married to a psychiatrist, he had already been noticed by several discoveries. He is the global specialist in “rickettsiae”, the intracellular bacteria that cause typhus. He also deciphered the genome of the bacterium that causes Whipple’s disease, almost a century after the onset of this infectious disease.

The Covid 19 pandemic prompts some people to consult the Internet to supplement their information on covid-19. But this approach risks giving a bad vision of the situation. “It is extremely difficult to collect reliable data on this pandemic,” says epidemiologist Joël Mossong.

Didier Raoult also discovered Mimivirus, a giant virus that he identified in 1992 and thus named in honor of “Mimi l’Amibe”, a hero invented by his father in his stories intended to explain the ‘evolution.

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