US government scientists reported Friday that the antiviral drug remdesivir has been effective in treating monkeys infected with COVID-19.
Remdesivir, a drug originally developed to treat Ebola patients is said to work against the COVID-19 by adding mutations that are ultimately destroy the virus.
“Early treatment with the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir significantly reduced clinical disease and damage to the lungs of rhesus macaques infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” said a press release from the National Institutes of Health, which ran the experiment.
In the experiment with monkeys, two groups of six rhesus macaques were intentionally infected with the respiratory virus. Africa Tembelea understands the test group was treated with the drug, developed by Gilead Sciences, while the untreated comparison group was not.
This test group was then given its first dose of the drug intravenously 12 hours after the initial infection, which was followed daily for six days. The first treatment was timed to occur just before the virus reached its maximum level in the monkeys’ lungs.
Twelve hours after the first treatment, the macaques’ symptoms had significantly improved. Their conditions continued improving over the week. At the end of the test phase, just one of the six treated animals displayed mild difficulty breathing, while all six animals in the untreated group had difficulty breathing.
The treated group also displayed significantly lower levels of the virus in their lungs than the untreated group and also had less lung damage.
In a separate development, the health news website Stat on Thursday reported that the drug had also been regarded as effective on coronavirus patients in Chicago who are participating in the trial.
Gilead, the company that manufactures Remdesivir is positive and said it would wait for more data from trials to confirm its efficacy and safety. According to Gilead, during the latest Phase 3 trials at the University of Chicago, 125 patients with Covid-19 were selected; 113 of these patients had severe disease, and were given daily infusions of the experimental drug.
“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish,” said Kathleen Mullane, the University of Chicago specialist who conducted the trials.
On his part, the Gilead CEO and Chairman, Daniel O’Day, was more circumspect and noted that, “In studying remdesivir, the question is not just whether it is safe and effective against Covid-19 but in which patients it shows activity, how long should they receive treatment and at what stage of their disease would treatment be most beneficial. Many answers are needed, which is why we need multiple types of studies involving many types of patients.”