March 12 (UPI) -- South Korean disease experts have begun to recommend the use of a combination of antiviral and anti-malaria drugs for patients of the new strain of coronavirus.
Kwon Jun-wook, deputy head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday at a regular press briefing the recommendations come from multiple groups, and that the government is ready to apply the recommendations to patients "where necessary," Newsis reported.
The Korean Society of Infectious Diseases, Korean Society for Antimicrobial Therapy, Korean Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and a tuberculosis association published their recommendations on Thursday.
The groups advised discretion among medical professionals, while recommending the administration of Kaletra, an anti-HIV medication that includes the drugs lopinavir and ritonavir.
Kaletra blocks the ability of HIV to replicate itself, and also inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
South Korean experts are also recommending the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with the anti-HIV medication. HCQ is sold under the brand name Plaquenil, among others, and is used for the prevention and treatment of malaria.
The South Korean groups warned that there is "currently no standard treatment for COVID-19," and urged medical staff to use their best judgment when treating patients. COVID-19 patients showing severe pneumonia-like symptoms, high-risk groups including the elderly and the chronically ill, are target groups for a more "active" administration of the drugs, South Korean experts said.
South Korea has taken progressive measures nationwide in response to the spread of the coronavirus, including drive-through testing stations, free tests regardless of citizenship. Unlike Taiwan or Australia, Seoul has also refrained from draconian travel restrictions, but reported cases exceeded 7,800 by Thursday.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said during a prime-time address his administration is monitoring the situation in South Korea.
"As their situation improves, we will re-evaluate the restrictions and warnings that are currently in place for a possible early opening," Trump said.
Korea Economic Daily reported Thursday the South Korean foreign ministry is evaluating Trump's South Korea statement as "encouraging."