Is remdesivir the answer to defeat coronavirus?
New Delhi, Apr 15: Could the trial Ebola drug be the answer to stopping coronavirus? A new study has shown that the antiviral remdesivir, an experimental Ebola drug may stop COVID-19 from replicating and this could render the virus harmless.
The drug is developed by US based biotechnology company, Gilead Sciences Inc, which has a patent in India. India is taking part in the trial. Gilead has started two phase 3 clinical trials on the safety and efficiency of the drug. The phase 3 trials are required to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulators.
The research paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry said that remdesivir can inhibit coronavirus polymrerases. These are enzymes that bring out the formation of polymers, particularly DNA and RNA in cell culture.
Matthias Götte, chair of medical microbiology and immunology at the faculty of medicine and dentistry at the University of Alberta, Canada who conducted the study said that the polymerase of Sars-CoV-2 is like the engine of the virus. The virus is tricked by remdesivir by mimicking its building blocks. In a statement, Götte explained that these coronavirus polymerases are sloppy and they get fooled, so the inhibitor gets incorporated many times and the virus can no longer replicate.
An article in the New England Journal of Medicine, said that a 35 year old man who returned to the US after a family visit to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated was found to have improved after receiving remdesivir.
On April 10, the journal had chronicled the case of 53 patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19, who were treated with this drug. Clinical improvements were seen in 36 of them, but only placebo-controlled trials can provide an accurate picture, it said.
Gilead's chairman and CEO Daniel O'Day said in a statement on the company's website that two Phase 3 studies are being run by Gilead in areas with a high prevalence of Covid-19 in the United States, Asia and Europe. One of these is for patients with severe disease and the other studies remdesivir in patients with more moderate symptoms. One of the many questions that these studies aim to answer is whether treatment duration can be shortened from 10 days to 5 days.