- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2020

An NBC news division medical report promoted the possible benefits of an anti-malarial drug in subduing the coronavirus the day before its White House reporter questioned President Trump for talking up the same medicine.

NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander at Friday’s White House briefing asked if Mr. Trump was up stirring up “a false sense of hope” by endorsing chloroquine. It’s a decades-old anti-malaria drug that lab tests show could defeat the virus first detected in the city of Wuhan, China, in December.

“Is it possible ….that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope and misrepresenting the preparedness right now?” Mr. Alexander said.

Mr. Trump, who has ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to evaluate chloroquine, said he was an optimist on chloroquine as are Tesla automaker Elon Musk and some physicians.

Cable business channel CNBC, which like NBC News is a unit of NBC Universal’s news division, published a story on Thursday headlined, “Here’s why Trump and Elon Musk see potential in a drug called chloroquine to treat coronavirus.”

A sub-headline stated, “The early data is promising, scientists and biotech experts say. But there are still many unknown.”

The story quotes Dr. Kristian Olson, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an internal medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“It has been found in mice to be effective to treat a variety of viruses,” Dr. Olson says. “It also appears it’s active in vitro (via test tube experiments) against COVID-19.”

The story continued, “Some of the early data is promising. A group of researchers in France are testing a less toxic derivative of the chloroquine drug called hydroxychloroquine on a few dozen patients with COVID-19, and early reports of the trial indicate that the drug might help shorten the amount of time that people with the disease are infectious.”

As far back as 2005, the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information published a laboratory study that said chloroquine could be a “potent” remedy for SARS. The disease, like the current pandemic COVID-19, is another coronavirus disease and was first noted in 2002 in China.

“Chloroquine is a potent inhibitor of SARS coronavirus infection and spread,” said the study by six American and Canadian researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the Laboratory of Biochemical Neuroendocrinology in Montreal.

“Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by a newly discovered coronavirus (SARS-CoV),” the article states. “No effective prophylactic or post-exposure therapy is currently available.

We report, however, that chloroquine has strong antiviral effects on SARS-CoV infection of primate cells. These inhibitory effects are observed when the cells are treated with the drug either before or after exposure to the virus, suggesting both prophylactic and therapeutic advantage.”

Like the current COVID-19, SARS also came from a wild animal market in China, with the source believed to be bats who either infected another animal or humans. The Wuhan Virus is believed to be bat-carried, first noticed in December.

China health officials in January said the first five infected people worked or shopped at the Wuhan wild animal market subsequently closed on Jan. 1.

NBC’s Mr. Alexander asked a followup question of Mr. Trump, citing the U.S. infection cases and deaths and asking him to address Americans who might be “scared.”

Mr. Trump bristled at the question. Liberal pundits blamed Mr. Trump for the disease’s spread. A New York Times columnist urged the country to name the virus after Mr. Trump. An MSNBC analyst said the president should be brought up on criminal charges.

Mr. Trump, who constantly battles the “fake news” liberal media, responded to Mr. Alexander, “I say you’re a terrible reporter.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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