In a new study, researchers are hopeful that a new drug—called EIDD-2801—could change the way doctors treat COVID-19.
The drug shows promise in reducing lung damage, has finished testing in mice and will soon move to human clinical trials.
The research was conducted by a team at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health.
Currently, no antiviral drugs have been approved to treat SARS-CoV-2 or any of the other coronaviruses that cause human disease.
The researches are playing a key role in the development and testing of EIDD-2801.
Their study found that, when used as a prophylactic, EIDD-2801 can prevent severe lung injury in infected mice.
EIDD-2801 is an orally available form of the antiviral compound EIDD-1931; it can be taken as a pill and can be properly absorbed to travel to the lungs.
When given as a treatment 12 or 24 hours after an infection has begun, EIDD-2801 can reduce the degree of lung damage and weight loss in mice.
This window of opportunity is expected to be longer in humans because the period between coronavirus disease onset and death is generally extended in humans compared to mice.
The team says this new drug not only has a high potential for treating COVID-19 patients but also appears effective for the treatment of other serious coronavirus infections.
Compared with other potential COVID-19 treatments that must be administered intravenously, EIDD-2801 can be delivered by mouth as a pill.
In addition to ease of treatment, this offers a potential advantage for treating less-ill patients or for prophylaxis—for example, in a nursing home where many people have been exposed but are not yet sick.
Clinical studies of EIDD-2801 in humans are expected to begin later this spring.
If they are successful, the drug could not only be used to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but also could control future outbreaks of other emerging coronaviruses.
The leader of the study is William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of epidemiology Ralph Baric.
The study is published in Science Translational Medicine.
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