MERS coronavirus. PHOTO: CDC/Unsplash

Potential antiviral drug against MERS coronavirus

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Researchers report an antiviral therapy that is effective against the MERS-coronavirus in monkeys. Animals were either treated 24 hours before being infected with the virus, or 12 hours after infection. Advance treatment completely prevented clinical signs of the disease, while those treated after infection had a clinical benefit but to a lesser extent. The results suggest the therapy, remdesivir, might be a promising treatment candidate for MERS that warrants further clinical trials. Additionally, the study authors say remdesivir’s broad antiviral effects may make it useful against other coronaviruses, including COVID-19.

Journal/conference: PNAS

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1922083117

Organisation/s: National Institutes of Health, USA

Funder: This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of NIAID, NIH, and federal funds from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services

Media Release

From: PNAS

Researchers report an antiviral therapy that is effective against the MERS-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in monkeys. MERS-CoV has caused nearly 2,500 cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome since its discovery in 2012, with fatalities in approximately 35% of cases. The broad-acting antiviral drug remdesivir has been shown to be effective against MERS-CoV in vitro and in mice. Emmie de Wit and colleagues tested the efficacy of remdesivir against MERS-CoV in rhesus macaques. Animals were treated with remdesivir either prophylactically—starting 24 hours before MERS-CoV infection—or therapeutically—starting 12 hours after infection. Prophylactically treated animals exhibited no clinical respiratory signs, dramatically reduced viral replication in lungs, trachea, and bronchi compared with control animals, and were free of lung lesions 6 days after infection. Clinical signs, viral replication, and lung lesions were also reduced in therapeutically treated animals compared with controls, although to a lesser extent than in prophylactically treated animals. The results suggest that remdesivir might be a promising treatment candidate for MERS that warrants further clinical trials. Additionally, remdesivir’s broad antiviral effects may render it useful against other coronaviruses, including the 2019-nCoV currently emerging from China, according to the authors.

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