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New trials launched across Africa to test treatments for Covid-19

A man has his skin temperature checked in a shop Harare, Zimbabwe, October 2020. EPA / Aaron Ufumeli

The trials aim to respond to the urgent need to identify drugs that can be used for early treatment of Covid-19 as cases rise across the continent.

Thirteen African countries and an international network of research institutions have joined forces to launch a multi-country clinical trial of Covid-19 drug treatments for people who are mild to moderately ill.

The new ANTICOV trial, led by the Geneva-based Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), aims to respond to the urgent need to identify drugs that can be used for early treatment of Covid-19.

Why is this important? Although Africa has so far managed the Covid-19 pandemic exceptionally well, with only an estimated four per cent of the world's cases, a resurgence of infections being seen right now underlines the fact that the continent is not immune. Moreover, what was a mostly urban outbreak until now is now spreading into rural areas.

“Treating mild cases is urgently needed to halt progression to severe disease and prevent spikes in hospitalisation that could overwhelm already fragile health systems,” said DNDi's Bernard Pécoul, speaking at the launch of the new initiative. “The ANTICOV trial brings together African and global science and public health leaders from 26 institutions and will enrol up to 3,000 participants across 13 countries.”

The clinical trial will be carried out at 19 sites by the ANTICOV consortium, which includes 26 prominent African and global research and development (R&D) organizations, coordinated by DNDi, an international non-profit R&D group with extensive partnerships in Africa.

Repurposed drugs for other illnesses. ANTICOV will initially focus on examining a series of “repurposed” drugs also used for HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases, and where evidence from a large-scale randomised clinical trial could provide missing data on the efficacy of a drug candidate in mild-to-moderate Covid-19 patients.

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