Toronto, April 14 (IANS) As new COVID-19 cases are on the rise, scientists around the globe are trying their best to find a vaccine, and now researchers have shown that the drug remdesivir is highly effective in stopping the replication mechanism of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Remdesivir by Gilead Sciences is one of several drugs being fast-tracked into trials by the World Health Organization, comparing potential treatments in hospitalised COVID-19 patients in a dozen countries, including Canada.
Published in the journal Biological Chemistry, the current study follows closely on research published by the same lab in late February that demonstrated how the drug worked against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, a related coronavirus.
“We obtained almost identical results as we reported previously with MERS, so we see that remdesivir is a very potent inhibitor for coronavirus polymerases,” said study researcher Matthias Gotte from the University of Alberta in Canada.
The study demonstrates how remdesivir, developed in 2014 to fight the Ebola epidemic, works in detail. He likens the polymerase to the engine of the virus, responsible for synthesizing the virus’ genome.
“If you target the polymerase, the virus cannot spread, so it’s a very logical target for treatment,” Gotte said.
According to the researchers, the lab’s work shows how remdesivir tricks the virus by mimicking its building blocks.
“These coronavirus polymerases are sloppy and they get fooled, so the inhibitor gets incorporated many times and the virus can no longer replicate,” Gotte explained.
He said the evidence from his group, along with previously published studies in animal and cell culture models, means that remdesivir can be classified as a “direct-acting antiviral” against SARS-CoV-2, a term first used to describe newer classes of antivirals that interfere with specific steps of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) life cycle.
The discovery of that direct action reinforces the promise of clinical trials for remdesivir in COVID-19 patients, which are already underway around the world, the researcher said.
While Gotte said the evidence justifies clinical trials, he cautioned that the results obtained in the lab cannot be used to predict how the drug will work with people. “We can expect results from important clinical trials as early as April or May,” he added.