Amid talk in the media that an anti-malarial drug may be used to treat people with coronavirus, a warning has been sounded that Jews from the Middle East should exercise caution.
David Basson, chairman of Academics from Iraq in Israel, said that people with coronavirus who may suffer from the fava (broad bean) allergy should tell their doctor before being prescribed the drug hydroxychloroquine.
Millions around the world suffer from an allergy to broad beans. It is common among Greeks, Italians, Spaniards and Armenians. The allergy is common among Jews from Morocco. Kurdistan and Iraq. To a lesser extent it affects Yemenite, Iranian and Georgian Jews.
The allergy is caused by a genetic defect where the person lacks the enzyme G6PD. Quinine-based drugs such as chloroquine, commonly prescribed against malaria, may cause hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells leading to severe anaemia). Little data is available on the effect of the derivative hydroxychloroquine on those with G6PD deficiency.
There is a positive side to this allergy – statistics support the fact that broad bean allergy sufferers are better protected against malaria.
When it comes to the treatment of coronavirus, Mr Basson adds: ‘This drug may be safe and necessary, but just be aware.”