German researchers have found no evidence that chloroquine, the antimalarial drug widely rumored to help prevent Covid-19, can actually prevent infection in human lung cells.

The new finding, made by researchers from the Infection Biology Unit of the German Primate Center (DPZ), follows studies which showed that chloroquine inhibited the spread of the disease in African green monkeys’ kidney cells.

However, despite our similar genetic makeup, chloroquine fails to mimic the same results in our human lung cells, allowing infection to occur. 

In May, it was revealed that President Donald Trump – who was a top proponent of using the drug to treat Covid-19 after some earlier studies pointed to possible success – was in fact using hydroxychloroquine, a form of chloroquine that is less toxic, as medication to keep the virus at bay.

The reveal caused plenty of controversy, due to there being no proof that the drug actually prevented the virus. That same month, several states within the European Union banned its usage as a drug to combat Covid-19. 

The novel coronavirus enters cells in two different ways, one of which involves the virus entering through structures called endosomes. Once inside, it is activated by a type of protein. It is this part of the process that is believed to have prevented infection in the African green monkeys. 

The researchers hope that, following their discovery, it will become more widely known that the “the antiviral activity of chloroquine is cell type-specific and that chloroquine does not block the infection of lung cells,” says Stefan Pohlmann, head of the Infection Biology Unit at DPZ.

Because Covid-19 is primarily caused by infection within cells in the lung, only drugs that target such areas of the body specifically should be earmarked for further experimentation.

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