NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new trial involving the anti-viral drug remdesivir produces some good news regarding its potential as an effective COVID-19 treatment option. When exposed to samples of SARS-CoV-2 within human lung cell cultures, remdesivir “potently inhibited” the coronavirus. Furthermore, when remdesivir was given to lab mice infected with COVID-19, the rodents’ lung functioning started to improve.
This research was conducted by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Gilead Sciences.
While these results are still pre-clinical, they nonetheless go a long way toward validating remdesivir’s positive effect thus far among many COVID-19 patients. Administration of the drug to COVID-19 patients in the U.S. on a compassionate use basis is ongoing since late January. Clinical trials started up in February.
Fast forward to April of this year, and a preliminary report on remdesivir found that many coronavirus patients given the drug recovered at a faster pace than others.
“All of the results with remdesivir have been very encouraging, even more so than we would have hoped, but it is still investigational, so it was important to directly demonstrate its activity against SARS-CoV-2 in the lab and in an animal model of disease,” says co-study author VUMC’s Andrea Pruijssers, PhD, in a release.
Remdesivir successful against several viruses
Remdesivir isn’t a new medication to the research team. Their studies on the drug date back to 2014. They were also the first to document that the drug shows “broad and highly potent activity” against coronaviruses. Remdesivir was first developed by Gilead Sciences to treat hepatitis C and respiratory syncytial virus, but it has also been used to treat the Ebola virus.
These new findings provide “the first rigorous demonstration of potent inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 in continuous and primary human lung cultures.” This research is also the first to discover remdesivir is capable of blocking the coronavirus in mice.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done. Additional trials can ultimately determine just how effective the drug is against the various stages of a COVID-19 infection.
“We also are focusing on how to use remdesivir and other drugs in combinations to increase their effectiveness during COVID-19 and to be able to treat at different times of infection,” Pruijssers comments.
Looking to the future
This isn’t the first time an animal-based coronavirus has made the jump to humans. Researchers say it likely won’t be the last.
“Broad-spectrum antiviral drugs, antibodies, and vaccines are needed to combat the current pandemic and those that will emerge in the future,” the study reads.
Remdesivir has also proved capable of fighting other bat coronaviruses, which bodes well for the future in the event another coronavirus jumps to humans.
“We hope that will never happen, but just as we were working to characterize remdesivir over the past six years to be ready for a virus like SARS-CoV-2, we are working and investing now to prepare for any future coronavirus,” Denison concludes. “We want remdesivir and other drugs to be useful both now and in the future.”
The study is published in Cell Reports.