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There is a potential cure for COVID-19. And, testing begins in Australian hospitals next week.

It’s the glimmer of hope in the coronavirus crisis that we’ve all been hanging out for.

Earlier this week, Queensland researchers said they’d identified two drugs that had the potential to be a “real cure” for patients infected with COVID-19. The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation asked the public to donate $750,000 to fund a major trial.

Within two days, more than double that amount was raised.

Our very own Claire Murphy breaks down your most answered questions about COVID-19. Post continues below.

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Now that the funding is there, a trial of the drugs in Australian hospitals is set to begin next week.

“We knew the science was good and obviously the research is very good,” Simone Garske, CEO of the RBWH Foundation tells Mamamia. “I think people are really hungry for some hope and some good news on the horizon.”

The trial, headed by Professor David Paterson from the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, was originally only going to involve a handful of hospitals, but is now set to take in at least 50.

“This overwhelming call from other hospitals, particularly the regional ones, has made us think that we’ve got to keep going,” Garske explains. “The more money we can raise, the more hospitals potentially that can partake in the clinical trial.”

The drugs involved in the trial are two that have already been widely used in Australia. One was previously used on HIV patients while the other, chloroquine, was used for malaria.

The idea of using this HIV drug for coronavirus was originally suggested to Australian doctors by Chinese patients in Australia, who’d heard about the treatment being successful in China. The Australian doctors were dubious, but to their surprise, they saw the same positive result.

Professor Paterson has now proven that both drugs are “highly effective” at killing the virus in the test tube. He’s also seen patients recover after taking them.

“Prior to the clinical trials going ahead, the medications were given to some of the first Australian patients infected with COVID-19, and all have completely recovered without any trace of the virus left in their system,” he says.

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“These medications have the potential to be a real cure for all, unlike the random anecdotal experiences of some people.”

Once the trial is underway in hospitals, coronavirus patients who are admitted to those hospitals will be asked if they want to take part. They will be given either one of the two drugs or a combination of both, to see what’s most effective.

“If we can obtain the best possible information now, then we can quickly treat subsequent patients down the track,” Professor Paterson says.

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There’s also the possibility of expanding the trial to include other drugs that could treat the virus.

Garske says the interest in the trial from around the world has been “really incredible”.

“We’re taking calls from Denmark, Germany, the US, just interested parties, saying, ‘How do we get involved? We want to be part of the potential solution that’s being worked on here.’”

She says Professor Paterson and the other specialists involved in the trial are “leaders in their field”. “I think we can feel as positive as we can in these times that we’ve got smart people doing good work.”

In other good news this week, Chinese medical authorities announced that an influenza drug used in Japan appears to be effective in treating coronavirus patients. A trial of more than 300 patients showed that 91 per cent of those given the drug favipiravir showed an improvement in lung condition, compared to 62 per cent of those who weren’t given the drug.

There’s also been progress this week in developing a coronavirus vaccine. Testing has begun on human volunteers in the US. The 45 volunteers will receive two doses a month apart. The vaccine trials are being fast-tracked, without the usual testing on animals first.

Researchers in other countries, including Germany and Australia, are also working on a coronavirus vaccine. It was initially expected that it would take 12-18 months for one to be available, but European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said this week that the regulatory process could be sped up. She believes a vaccine could be on the market within six months.

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The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

Feature image: Getty.

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