In the race to develop a treatment for COVID-19, Gilead Sciences may have come up with a winner with remdesivir. In a study conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Gilead, researchers found the experimental drug inhibited the coronavirus in human lung cell cultures in the lab. Their results also showed it improved lung function in mice infected with the disease.
Since January, doctors have prescribed remdesivir to hospitalized COVID-19 patients when few other options were available. The drug has undergone clinical trials since February, and preliminary reports indicated it may help patients recover more quickly. But researchers still need more thorough preclinical and laboratory evidence of its effectiveness.
“All of the results with remdesivir have been very encouraging, even more so than we would have hoped,” said Vanderbilt research assistant and study co-author Andrea Pruijssers, “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.”
Further research will focus on remdesivir’s effects at various stages of the disease and in combination with other drugs. Other studies suggest it may help to fight a variety of coronaviruses that could jump to humans in the future.
“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,” Mark Denison, a researcher at Vanderbilt, said. “We want remdesivir and other drugs to be useful both now and in the future.”
Researchers will need to closely monitor whether patients develop liver damage—a rare but severe side effect of remdesivir, according to a Medscape article published on July 8. —J.B.