SUSSEX researchers are hoping to make a breakthrough on whether an anti-malaria drug can prevent people from catching coronavirus.

In June the World Health Organisation said hydroxychloroquine was not an effective treatment for coronavirus patients and stopped using it in international trials.

But researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School are now looking into whether the drug is effective at preventing Covid-19 infection in the first place.

About 50 healthcare workers at the Royal Sussex County Hospital are taking the drug or a placebo every day as part of the trial, which began on July 2.

Lead investigator Professor Martin Llewelyn said there is a “strong case” for looking into whether the drug could be used to prevent coronavirus infection.

“Two studies published recently show people who take this drug seem to be at lower risk of contracting Covid,” Prof Llewelyn said.

“We think there’s a really strong case for asking the question – if you were a healthcare worker and took hydroxychloroquine, could it prevent you from contracting Covid-19? It looks like it might.

The Argus: Researchers are looking into whether hydroxychloroquine could prevent coronavirus infectionResearchers are looking into whether hydroxychloroquine could prevent coronavirus infection

“The global trial is led out of Thailand but Brighton is effectively leading the programme in Europe.

“A lot of media coverage has focused on news about a vaccine.

“But we’re never going to get a vaccine by this winter, probably not before next winter. We can’t just wait for a vaccine to save us.”

In the Brighton trial, healthcare workers take hydroxychloroquine or a placebo every day for three months, recording how they feel through an app.

Blood samples will also be taken before and after the trial.

Prof Llewelyn hopes thousands more will participate in the study.

The Argus: Findings for the trial could be published by next springFindings for the trial could be published by next spring

If all goes well, findings could be published by spring, he said.

“Some people get a bit of nausea or stomach upset from it but usually only very mild,” he said.

“There are about a million people who take this drug worldwide for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

“It can be manufactured for about £1 a day and it can be very easily manufactured in large quantities.

“We expect to recruit really well between October and November. We could have results by early next year at the end of winter.”

If you are a healthcare worker, you may be able to take part in the trial. Visit to see if you are eligible.

  • The coronavirus Sussex Crisis Fund has been set up to help those affected by the pandemic. The Argus’s charity and American Express have each donated £50,000 to kick-start the appeal. Grants will usually be for up to £5,000. More information is available at www.sussexgiving. To donate visit