Dr. Kriangska Atipornwanich — a lung specialist at Rajavithi hospital in Bangkok — told reporters that a cocktail of large doses of the anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, in combination with the flu drug oseltamivir, showed promise. In particular, the combination of medicines appeared to have a positive result when used to treat a 70-year-old female patient from Wuhan — the Chinese city where the virus is believed to have emerged.
The woman was hospitalized at Rajavithi for ten days, where the doctors gave her the test treatment. Within 48 hours, her condition improved and tests for the virus were coming back negative.
Dr. Atipornwanich is clear that the results are only preliminary.
“This is not the cure, but the patient’s condition has vastly improved… The outlook is good but we still have to do more study to determine that this can be a standard treatment,” said Dr. Atipornwanich.
Elsewhere in Thailand, the same cocktail was used on two patients and turned up mixed results. One patient showed some improvement, while the other suffered an allergic reaction.
In China, doctors have been using a similar cocktail of HIV and flu drugs to treat the deadly virus, albeit with less success. However, in Thailand, Director-General of the Medical Services Department Somsak Akkslim said that an increase in the dose of one of the drugs made the difference.
“We have been following international practices, but the doctor increased the dosage of one [flu drug Oseltamivir],” said Akkslim.
For the time being, doctors plan to proceed cautiously in administering the as-yet unproven treatment.
“Initially we will apply this approach only to severe cases,” said Somsak.
Meanwhile, 19 people have turned up with coronavirus in Thailand. Of those patients, eight have gotten better and returned to their homes, while 11 still remain hospitalized.
Worldwide, health officials are scrambling to get the upper hand on containing the virus. As of this writing, the coronavirus has infected 14,300 people across the world and killed at least 305, according to CNN. Only one of those deaths — a man in the Philippines — has occurred outside of mainland China.
In the U.S., White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that the current risk of the virus to Americans is low, saying that there is no need to “panic.”
“We’re monitoring ourselves and what we’re especially doing is monitoring the situation here in the states to make sure Americans are continuing to be safe from this virus,” said O’Brien.