As the United States continues its efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19, the U.S. Army has seen early success treating infected soldiers with an anti-viral drug designed to treat illnesses like Ebola.
The drug, which is called remdesivir, attacks the coronavirus in patients by imitating the enzyme within the virus that controls replication, according to a peer reviewed paper published why the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The virus then absorbs the imitation enzymes, preventing it from actually replicating.
"These coronavirus polymerases are sloppy and they get fooled, so the inhibitor gets incorporated many times and the virus can no longer replicate," Matthias Götte, University of Alberta's chair of medical microbiology and immunology, told EurekAlert.
Two U.S. Army Soldiers that had been diagnosed with the coronavirus were given remdesivir and saw promising results, bouncing back fairly quickly. Of course, two recoveries does not make for a very substantial statistic, but Army medical professionals see these early results as promising.
"Two soldiers diagnosed with coronavirus were given an antiviral drug used to treat the Ebola virus and successfully recovered," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy was quoted as saying in an Army release.
"They're up and walking around. Obviously, that's not that substantial of a sample size, but it shows that it can work."
Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy visits a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center facility at Fort Belvoir, Va., to observe the health care guidance implemented to handle COVID-19, March 20, 2020.
These two results are not alone. In another limited clinical study, 36 of 53 patients that were hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus also saw marked improvement after being administered remdesivir, according to another paper published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
"During a median follow-up of 18 days, 36 patients (68%) had an improvement in oxygen-support class, including 17 of 30 patients (57%) receiving mechanical ventilation who were extubated," the article reads.
Put simply, that means more than half of the patients that had been using a ventilator to breath prior to the treatment were healthy enough to be taken off the ventilators after. Seven of the patients within the study ultimately succumbed to the coronavirus, with the remaining 25 seeing full recovery.
Again, 36 patients is also a statistically tiny sample size, and much more research will need to be done in order to assess the efficacy and any potential side effects of using remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19, but these early signs are positive.
Daniel O'Day, chairman and CEO of Gilead (the company that produces remdesivir) posted an open letter speaking to that point, saying that multiple trials are underway to determine how safe and effective the medicine can be as a treatment for the virus that has rapidly spread around the world in recent months.
"In the broader efforts to determine whether it is a safe and effective treatment, we have some way to go," O'Day said.
"Multiple clinical trials are underway across the world to build a complete picture of how remdesivir works in various contexts.
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