New York (The Verge) — An experimental treatment for the new coronavirus is being tested in the US trib.al/hJrNY9R.
The National Institutes of Health is testing the antiviral drug remdesivir, which is also being studied in patients in China. Running trials during epidemics is tricky, but scientists learned a lot about how to conduct them during recent Ebola outbreaks.
Two trials of the drug, an experimental antiviral called remdesivir, have already been up and running in China for a few weeks — and preliminary results appear promising. “There is only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy and that’s remdesivir,” said Bruce Aylward, an assistant director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), at a press conference this week.
In lab experiments, remdesivir blocks the activity of the new coronavirus in cells. It’s also effective against MERS and SARS, which are also coronaviruses, in cells. It hasn’t yet been tested against those particular diseases in humans. It was first developed by the pharmaceutical company Gilead to treat Ebola. A handful of COVID-19 patients, including the first US patient, have been given the drug under compassionate use, which allows doctors to give experimental drugs to patients when no other options are available.
The treatment appeared to help in some of those cases, but it takes a clinical trial, like the ones that are underway, for experts to conclusively know if it works. — Nicole Wetsman/@verge