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Remdesivir under study as treatment for novel coronavirus


 

A randomized, controlled trial of Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir is currently underway in China in hopes that it will be an effective treatment for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

“What they’re looking at is the effect of this drug -- either the drug plus standard of care versus standard of care alone,” Anthony S. Fauci, MD, reported Feb. 7 during a press briefing held by members of President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force. “I think pretty soon we are going to get a definitive answer, whether one of these among several drugs works.”

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added that several organizations and individual investigators are developing vaccines for 2019-nCoV. In one such effort, the National Institutes of Health is working with Moderna Inc. to develop a vaccine built on a messenger RNA platform. “One of the first steps is to successfully get that [novel coronavirus] gene and insert it into the messenger RNA platform successfully and allow it to express proteins,” Dr. Fauci explained. “We’ve succeeded in that. The next [step] is to put it in a mouse animal model to induce immunogenicity, and to get the company to make [gold nanoparticle] products. All of those have been successfully implemented. There have been no glitches so far. If that continues, we will be in Phase 1 trials in people within the next two-and-a-half months.”

In another development on the same day, Robert R. Redfield, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced that Heath & Human Services issued an interim final rule to amend foreign quarantine regulations in the wake of the public health threat posed by the 2019-nCoV. “This will enable CDC to collect certain contact information data regarding airline passengers and crew when they arrive from other countries. . .and may be exposed to communicable disease,” Dr. Redfield said. “This action is part of our multi-layered approach to the U.S. response and demonstrates our commitment to take all necessary actions to protect the American people.”

According to Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, and chair of President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force, there are 12 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, including two cases of transmission to people who had not recently been in China. “Although the virus represents a potentially very serious public health threat, and we expect to continue seeing more cases here, the immediate risk to the American public is low at this time,” Mr. Azar said. “We are working as quickly as possible on the many unanswered questions about this virus. That includes exactly how it spreads, how deadly it is, whether it’s commonly transmitted by patients who are not yet displaying symptoms, and other issues.”

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