When one member of a household comes down with the virus that causes COVID-19, many of the other people in the home will go on to develop the disease. But new research is testing a way to interrupt that spread.
It involves getting medicine quickly to people who’ve been exposed to the virus before they get sick.
“It’s a tried-and-true strategy for a lot of infectious diseases” such as tuberculous and meningitis, said Dr. Miriam Laufer, an infectious disease specialist in the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We know that it’s a strategy that works, and it might work in this setting as well.”
The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is underway at multiple locations across the United States. Research being conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine is recruiting participants from Maryland, Virginia, the District, West Virginia, Ohio and some states even farther away, because it’s not easy to find people who’ve learned about their household’s infection status quickly.
“Mostly, we’re looking for either household members or friends who’ve spent significant amounts of time together — in the past four days with someone who they’ve found out now has COVID-19 infection,” Laufer said. “We know that with most anti-viral medications, the earlier you use it the better.”
The study is conducted with no personal contact; everything’s done virtually or by mail. It involves using low doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that is used to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
Laufer said there was a recent study that, overall, showed hydroxchloriquine does not prevent COVID-19 infection, but it predominantly involved a population of health care workers. Within the study, there was a suggestion it did work to prevent disease infections among a smaller group.
“Look at just the household contacts — which is a different kind. That’s a lot of exposure. People are living in a house with you; you’re eating together; you’re sharing bathrooms; spouses and partners are sleeping in the same bed,” Laufer said.
Laufer said this much larger study, mostly involving household contact, should help settle the matter, “to see whether hydroxychloroquine, a drug we know is safe, can be useful in this way.”
Potential study participants can learn more on the study’s website, by texting covidpepstudy to 555888 or by calling 443-526-1429.
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