amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Will HIV Drugs Help Fight Coronavirus?

As new virus sweeps globe, doctors test antiretrovirals

novel coonavirus sars 
Novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 Image: NIAID-RML

At this moment, researchers are exploring an urgent question: Can HIV drugs combat the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19?  

Drugs developed to treat HIV are used in the treatment of other viral diseases such as hepatitis B. They have also shown substantial clinical benefit in the treatment of emerging diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which is caused by a coronavirus similar to that which causes COVID-19. 

To date, there have been about 137,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 5,000 deaths worldwide. These numbers are increasing significantly every day.  

Drugs developed to treat HIV are used in the treatment of other viral diseases.In the race to find effective treatments or a cure for COVID-19, researchers are now testing antiretrovirals used to treat HIV such as lopinavir, ritonavir, and another protease inhibitor called darunavir. 

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that anti-HIV drugs may be effective. Thai doctors gave lopinavir and ritonavir in combination with a flu drug to a Chinese coronavirus patient, who tested negative for the virus within two days. In Japan, a patient from Wuhan, China, was treated with just the two HIV drugs and her fever subsided within five days of being admitted to the hospital. And a report in the journal JAMA in March 2020 showed that three of five patients recovered after being treated with the same two drugs.

These reports are encouraging, but public health experts caution that more testing is needed before concluding that the HIV drugs can effectively treat COVID-19.

This story updates an earlier article, which you can read at