FEB 06, 2020 11:52 PM PST

China Begins Trials for Antiviral Drug to Tackle Coronavirus

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

So far, coronavirus has infected over 31,493 people globally, and has killed 638. Although 1,563 people have reportedly recovered, due to its fast-spreading nature, scientists and doctors alike are keen to find a way to treat it effectively. In particular, doctors and researchers in China have started enrolling patients with the virus in clinical trials for antiviral drug, remdesivir. 

Previous studies looking at the drug’s efficacy in tackling coronaviruses in mice and monkeys produced positive results. Thus, although it is unknown how it reacts to the virus in humans, scientists and practitioners alike are hopeful that it may produce positive results. 

To understand how the drug may treat the virus, two clinical trials have been scheduled to take place in Wuhan, China, in which 500 patients will receive the drug, while control groups will receive a placebo. Whereas one trial will include people severely ill from symptoms including a lack of oxygen, the other will involve patients who are hospitalized but only experiencing mild symptoms. 

During the trials, each patient will be given the drug intravenously over the course of 10 days. Then, 28 days after treatment, they will be assessed to see how their condition compares to those in the placebo groups. Should the drug be effective, Gilead will work to increase their available supply of the frug as quickly as possible by locating manufacturing partners across the world. 

This news comes after doctors in Washington state gave remdesivir to the first person infected with coronavirus in the US after his condition worsened and he developed pneumonia. Just a day after receiving the treatment, they noted significant improvement in his symptoms. These findings then received further attention following publication of a report earlier this week in which China demonstrated that the drug could successfully block the virus from infecting cells growing in a lab. 

Ryan McKeel, a spokesperson from Gilead, the pharmaceutical company behind remdesivir, said, “It is important to keep in mind that this is an experimental medicine that has only been used in a small number of patients with 2019-nCoV to date, so we do not have an appropriately robust understanding of the effect of this drug to warrant broad use at this time.” 

Sources: World Meters, The New York Times and BBC

About the Author
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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