In a new study, researchers have shown that drug remdesivir is highly effective in stopping the replication mechanism of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The study follows closely on research that demonstrated how the drug worked against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, a related coronavirus.
The research was conducted by scientists at the University of Alberta.
According to the team, remdesivir can be classified as a “direct-acting antiviral” against SARS-CoV-2, a term first used to describe newer classes of antivirals that interfere with specific steps of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) life cycle.
The discovery of that direct action reinforces the promise of clinical trials for remdesivir in COVID-19 patients, which are already underway around the world.
While the team says the evidence justifies clinical trials, he cautioned that the results obtained in the lab cannot be used to predict how the drug will work with people.
The team previously worked on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and HCV, but a couple of years ago switched to focus on viruses with the highest epidemic potential.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued its list of the top pathogens likely to cause severe outbreaks, including Ebola, Lassa, and coronaviruses, in 2015.
Remdesivir is one of several drugs being fast-tracked into trials by the World Health Organization, comparing potential treatments in hospitalized COVID-19 patients in a dozen countries, including Canada.
The team says it is disappointing that antivirals discovered at the time of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003–which might have been effective against COVID-19 too–were never translated into widely available treatments, largely because of the huge cost involved in developing new drugs.
One author of the study is Matthias Götte, the chair of medical microbiology and immunology at U of A.
The study is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
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