How drug meant for Ebola may also treat coronaviruses

In a new study, researchers have discovered why drug remdesivir is effective in treating the coronaviruses that cause Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

They expect it might also be effective for treating patients infected with the new COVID-19 strain. The study is among the first in Canada to discuss the COVID-19 strain.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Alberta.

Developed by Gilead Sciences as a response to the 2014 West African Ebola virus epidemic, remdesivir was first used on a patient with the novel coronavirus earlier this year in the United States.

As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the patient was given the drug on the seventh day of illness, and showed marked improvement the following day, with symptoms eventually disappearing altogether.

And at a recent press conference in Beijing, the assistant director-general of the World Health Organization, Bruce Alyward, said remdesivir is the only drug available that may have real efficacy against COVID-19.

The team says the drug works against different coronaviruses, like MERS and SARS, and the novel coronavirus is very similar to SARS.

So the team suggests that the results they found with remdesivir and MERS may similar to COVID-19.

The next step is to wait for results from ongoing clinical trials with remdesivir, which are expected by the end of April. Even then, that won’t be the end of the story.

It’s likely scientists need more than one drug to properly fight emerging diseases like COVID-19, as they have with HIV and hepatitis C virus infections, the team says.

The lead author of the study is virologist Matthias Götte.

The study is published in JBC.

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