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Remdesivir ‘is not the end,’ says UM virologist

April 30, 2020 — 

Yesterday, the world received some long-awaited good news about a treatment for COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the face of the Trump Administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, announced that according to preliminary trial data, patients with advanced COVID-19 who received the experimental drug remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received a placebo.

But is this optimism warranted?

UM Today asked infectious disease expert Dr. Jason Kindrachuk in the UM Rady Faculty of Health Sciences what he thinks of the remdesivir announcement.

“My take on remdesivir is that this is the first drug that appears to have a positive effect on reducing recovery time in COVID-19 patients,” says Kindrachuk.

But he cautions: “Now, where the moment of pause comes in is that this preliminary information was presented to the public today by [biotechnology company] Gilead and through Dr. Tony Fauci as well as others directly involved in the study. So, we all have to wait for the official data to be released to get a better sense of exactly what has been found.”

Remdesivir is an antiviral medication that was one of four therapeutic drugs (including ZMapp that was developed in Manitoba) tested during the outbreak of Ebola in 2013-2016 and was shown to be effective in mediating the progress of the virus. However, it was shown to be less effective than other drugs later in the investigations. Nevertheless, the depth to which remdesivir was studied during this period established it as an effective treatment in some cases. This is why it was looked to as a treatment against COVID-19.

Kindrachuk explains: “All of this being said, there is optimism that there may be a therapeutic that could help reduce the toll of COVID-19 in infected patients. However, this is not the end. The results appear beneficial but there is certainly a need to forge ahead to keep searching for additional drugs that may have greater activity.”

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