July 11, 2020

21° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Close this


Advertise With Us

Manitoba-based clinical trial seeks COVID-19 patients

A team of researchers at the University of Manitoba are testing to see whether hydroxychloroquine can be used to treat COVID-19.


A team of researchers at the University of Manitoba are testing to see whether hydroxychloroquine can be used to treat COVID-19.

The Free Press has made this story available free of charge so everyone can access trusted information on the coronavirus.

Support this work and subscribe today

Manitobans who've tested positive for COVID-19 can now sign up for a homegrown clinical trial seeking to determine whether a common malaria medication can be used to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A team of researchers at the University of Manitoba is leading the new study — the first of its kind in Canada — which is open to about 1,500 participants in Manitoba, Alberta, Quebec, and the United States.

The researchers are testing to see whether hydroxychloroquine can be used to treat COVID-19.

The drug has typically been used to treat or prevent the infectious disease malaria, and has recently received attention for its potential autoimmune benefits in stopping the coronavirus from replicating, at a cellular level, within the body of the person infected.

Until now, only small studies have been conducted on its potential impact.

Starting Thursday, shipments of either hydroxychloroquine or a placebo will be mailed to clinical trial participants in Manitoba, with shipments in other areas soon to follow.

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 are eligible, as long as they're not hospitalized and are within four days of showing symptoms. Those who have no symptoms but live with someone who's tested positive are also eligible for the trial.

Potential participants can sign up online (covid-19research.ca); those approved will take the medication delivered to them by courier for five days.

Working under pressure in the middle of the pandemic, Dr. Ryan Zarychanski and his team got the clinical trial up and running in less than a week. It's the first of six slated for the province — the others are expected to be geared toward health-care workers and hospitalized patients.

"We've been working almost around-the-clock for the last five days. People have moved mountains for us to get this approved in Canada," said Zarychanski, a critical care physician and hematologist, who's also an associate professor at the U of M department of internal medicine.

"We have no proven treatments, and without clinical trials, we can go through this whole pandemic not knowing which drug was beneficial, which drugs weren't, what we should continue to use and what we should abandon," he said.

"And so I really felt a strong moral imperative to provide an environment for as many Manitobans as possible to have access to a clinical trial, so we know exactly what works."

The researchers hope to find out within the next month whether hydroxychloroquine is an effective COVID-19 treatment.

If it is, they'll ensure all trial participants get the drug and open up wider access; if it isn't, they'll move on to another potential counter-measure.

The first clinical trial involving hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment was conducted in China, involving 30 participants. The results, publicized Wednesday, indicated the drug wasn't effective.

The Chinese study had "interesting, discrepant" results, Zarychanski said. "But we really need large, randomized controlled trials to understand if a drug is truly effective or not."

He and his team have other COVID-19 trials in the works, including one expected to test whether a type of blood-thinner could reduce inflammation and make the virus less able to attach itself to human cells.

"We stopped everything we were doing and we started COVID trials because they were that important to Manitoba," he said.

"Although this is the first one, there is a small, growing and dedicated army of clinical researchers, PhD researchers and research staff who have all come to help lead these trials in Manitoba — so that every Manitoban, hopefully, will have access to an experimental therapy and can contribute to knowledge generation in our province and throughout the world."


Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May
Justice reporter

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.

Read full biography


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.


Updated on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 7:06 PM CDT: Adds photo

11:40 PM: Adds hyperlink to body of story.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us