Remdesivir bottles used in treatment of COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China. Photo credit: FeatureChina via AP
The drug could treat patients with more severe symptoms if given soon after symptoms arise.
The drug identified as Remdesivir is an antiviral drug being used for patients with infections from the novel coronavirus in hopes that it can reduce the intensity and duration of COVID-19 and ease the burden of the pandemic on health systems.
Hopes are high for the drug since there are no approved treatments for any coronavirus infection, and Remdesivir is the furthest along in the development process of any emerging drug candidate.
In fact, many countries in the world, including the US and China, hope Remdesivir (the prospective coronavirus drug) passes clinical trials as the long-term vaccine projects continue.
Remdesivir can turn up the smells of impending cells in animals infected by other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS. It is currently highly effective at preventing coronaviruses, including filoviruses such as Ebola, SARS and MERS, from replicating. Remdesivir can clear the viral levels in a person, as long as it can interrupt enough replication but may have to be delivered early in infection as the virus is still proliferating.
It works by targeting and hijacking the virus replication system, not the virus itself. The drug can inhibit coronaviruses as well as Ebola because their polymerases are similar enough to that of the virus such that the virus picks up the drug adenosine instead of its polymerases unknowingly, thereby preventing any additional pieces from being strung on and replicated
The drug may yield better results from patients who start treatment early after symptoms arise than those whose symptoms started up to 4 or 5 days prior to treatment.
Remdesivir is now being tested in five COVID-19 clinical trials that have been set up at breakneck speed, two of which are run by Chinese scientists, looking at severe infections and mild and moderate infections. The rest are looking at different disease brutalities and medicating procedures. It’s been delivered through a compassionate use program to some patients, including the first case in the United States. The first clinical trial results are expected this month.
Remdesivir successfully cured the 35-year old first COVID-19 US patient in Washington after suffering from a respiratory infection (of fever and cough symptoms at first) and subsequently shortness of breath. He was said to have visited a family in Wuhan, China in January.
Various forms of NHC, EIDD-2801, and EIDD-1931, another prospective coronavirus drug that steered its Ebola antiviral to success in the same trial in which Remdesivir faltered, is also currently undergoing speedy COVID-19 treatment trials.
WHO Emergency Program has said that if any drug succeeds in the clinical trials, scale-up production of any drugs would be distributed on the basis of need and the basis of benefit. There is some preliminary data from non-randomized and observational studies that indicate some drugs may have an impact on the coronavirus.