Researchers have managed to reduce the severity of symptoms in monkeys infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) with an experimental antiviral drug by Gilead Sciences. MERS is an infection closely related to the fast-spreading coronavirus. Experts have successfully prevented the disease in monkeys. This report has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These findings have raised the hopes of Chinese scientists that the antiviral drug called ‘Remdesivir’ might be effective against the novel coronavirus as well. The drug is still under clinical trials in China. Coronavirus has infected around 60000 people across the globe. It has killed more than 1300 people, majorly in China. However, earlier, ‘Remdesivir’ showed great results in monkeys who were infected with Ebola, but its potential did not translate into humans.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has said that Remdesivir could not be effective in the case of Ebola but it might show a positive result in the global outbreak of coronavirus. NIAID scientists have tested this drug on monkeys 24 hours prior to infection with MERS. They have tried the drug on another set of monkeys after 12 hours of infection when the virus is on its peak. Afterward, all these monkeys have been compared with untreated monkeys in a control group. After six days, experts have found out that all the untreated monkeys have fallen ill. The monkeys who have been treated before the infection, they have been prevented from the disease. These monkeys have shown no sign of infection. There have been lower levels of virus in their lungs and there has been no lung damage. Even those animals that have been treated after the infection, they have also done fairly better than those animals that have not been treated at all.
Scientists are aware of the fact that most of the drugs, which work on monkeys, fail in human trials. However, experts have said that the findings of the experiment generate many hopes for ongoing researches in China. The MERS study has been supported by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the US Department of Health and Human Services. A Chinese research institute has requested a patent to use Gilead’s antiviral drug against coronavirus.