MARTHA MACCALLUM (ANCHOR): The thing that caught my eye is the use of potential malarial drugs, malaria drugs, and also HIV drugs that has been discussed in some places in China and also in Australia where they're testing these and they claim in Australia that they have had some success with chloroquine, which is an old anti-malarial drug, I believe, correct me if I'm wrong. And then also an HIV suppression drug. What do you think about that?
JUSTIN LESSLER: Yeah, I mean it's interesting that chloroquine is coming back. You know, it was once the front-line treatment for malaria, as you say, and I think the drugs, if they work, have two advantages. The obvious one is people who are really sick, you know, we can treat them, and we can hopefully speed their recovery, keep them out of the ICUs, and keep them from dying most importantly.
But also, if the drugs have a prophylactic effect, they can also be used to potentially stem the spread of the epidemic itself. You know, when we did a lot of pandemic planning for influenza back in the mid-2000s, one of the things people focused on a lot was how you could use drugs prophylactically to stop spread.
For instance, we know that for this virus and most viruses, households are a real epicenter of spread. In a study we conducted in Southern China, it looked like around six or seven times more likely to get infected if you were a household member of somebody who was infected then if you were a different -- another kind of close contact. So, you could envision if we had a drug that was widely available, didn't have many side effects, of giving that to the family members of people who were infected to stop -- help stop the spread. So, it can both be a treatment but also be a tool to control the viral epidemic.
MACCALLUM: So should -- are we trying to use these drugs here or should we be trying to use these drugs here in that situation where a family member has it and prophylactically giving it to the other members of the family?
LESSLER: I mean, if they're proven to work, we should. I think it's too early to tell. You know, most of the evidence I've seen thus far has been anecdotal. I know there are several more formal trials happening and I think it's really important to have the results of those because we all -- you know, while it's important to use something that works as quickly as possible, it's also important not to fool ourselves we're having an effect that when we don't and use resources that could go to something that could have a real impact on something that is effectively snake oil. So, those early trials of the drug are incredibly important. And I really look forward to seeing the results of them.