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University of Maryland researchers conduct trial of drug for COVID-19 prevention

President Donald Trump has touted the drug to treat patients in hospitals. The school of medicine wants to know: Could it be used to keep people out of the ICUs?

BALTIMORE — You’ve heard President Donald Trump tout the drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment to patients with COVID-19, but does it work?

This week, the University of Maryland School of Medicine started clinical trials to find out. However, the study will not look at treating those already in the hospital. It will see if the drug can keep people out of it.

"Hydroxychloroquine does look good in the lab," Dr. Kathy Neuzil explained.

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Neuzil is an infectious disease expert at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She explained that there is a mild misconception regarding this pandemic.

The actual virus is SARS-CoV-2 or a novel coronavirus. The disease the virus causes is called COVID-19. The school of medicine's new trial is aimed at preventing coronaivrus from becoming COVID-19.

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"We are looking for people who are exposed to the virus, but aren't sick yet," Neuzil said.

How would hydroxychloroquine do that, in theory?

“It should have a direct effect on against the virus, of stopping the virus in stopping the virus from replicating," she said.

Researchers have mapped out the study to identify people who have tested positive for coronavirus, but haven't reached disease stage yet. Half of the patients will get two weeks of hydroxychloroquine. The other half get vitamin C.

After two weeks, they'll see if the drug has prevented patients from getting sick. Neuzil hopes to have results within the next few months.

"If we have an answer sooner, we are absolutely committed to get that answer out publicly," she said.

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