Taiwan researchers claim Western-Chinese hybrid treatment effective against coronavirus

Research team leader says patients in trial recovered, were discharged from hospitals after 8-10 days

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FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SA...

FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SA... (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — With a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine still a long way off, a Taiwanese research team claims it has developed a Chinese herbal formula that can neutralize the virus in patients' bodies within 10 days.

National Research Institute of Chinese Medicine (NRICM) Director Su Yi-chang (蘇奕彰) told CNA on Monday (May 11) that the government-funded research institution began to develop a treatment mixing Chinese herbal therapy and Western medication at the start of the outbreak in January. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Welfare's (MOHW) Department of Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy, the team has developed a herbal formula based on research and its experience fighting SARS in 2003.

Su said the formula can be tailored to patients with four different degrees of disease severity: mild, moderate, severe, and remission. It can also be adjusted to better target the virus as it mutates.

The team began to use the formula alongside the undisclosed Western medicine to treat 14 COVID-19 patients starting April 3 at Tri-Service General Hospital in Taipei and Taichung Veterans General Hospital. The Western medication plays a supportive role while the traditional medicine-derived formula effectively targets the virus and helps maintain normal immune function, he explained.

The formula is meant to prevent the virus from penetrating into the body's cells and multiplying. In addition to quickly deactivating the virus, it can prevent the immune systems of critical patients from overreacting dangerously in what is known as the cytokine storm.

After 8 to 10 days of treatment, 12 of the 14 patients who had been discharged from the hospital tested negative three times. The remaining two are still recovering, having joined a therapy group several days ago, and their test results are unknown.

No side effects have been reported in the clinical trial for the new therapy so far.

However, the formula is not ready to be made public, as it has yet to be included in the MOHW's official interim guidance for infection prevention and control, but Su said the team is working on this.