Remdesivir: the experimental antiviral drug is promising against the MERS virus in rhesus macaques, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is closely related to the coronavirus COVID-19 (also known as SARS-CoV-2.
And 2019-nCoV) that has become a global public health emergency since they detected the first cases in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. In a new study, a team of researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Columbia University.
And Gilead Sciences, Inc. tested the efficacy of antiviral remdesivir wide-acting in the rhesus macaque model of MERS-CoV infection. The antiviral reduced the severity of the disease, virus replication, and lung damage when administered before or after the animals were infected with MERS-CoV.
The results appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. de Wit et al show that remdesivir is a promising antiviral treatment against MERS that could be considered for implementation in clinical trials.
This color scanning electron micrograph shows MERS virus particles (blue) in budding and attached to the surface of infected VERO E6 cells (yellow). Remdesivir is a nucleotide prodrug that has extensive antiviral activity against viruses of different families in vitro.
And therapeutic efficacy in nonhuman primate models of Ebola virus and Nipah virus infections. Studies in human airway epithelial cells showed that remdesivir also inhibits the replication of a wide range of coronaviruses, including MERS-CoV.
With these promising data in mind, NIAID scientist Dr. Emmie de Wit and his colleagues tested the prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy of treatment with remdesivir in a nonhuman primate model of MERS-CoV infection, the rhesus macaque.
Three groups of animals participated in the study: those treated with remdesivir 24 hours before infection with MERS-CoV. Those treated 12 hours after infection (near peak time for MERS-CoV replication in these animals); and untreated control animals.
The authors observed the animals for six days. All control animals showed signs of respiratory disease. Animals treated before infection did well: no signs of respiratory disease, significantly lower levels of replication of the virus in the lungs compared to control animals, and no lung damage.
Animals treated after infection performed significantly better than control animals: the disease was less severe than in control animals, their lungs had lower levels of virus than control animals, and lung damage was less severe.
“Our data shows that remdesivir is a promising antiviral treatment against MERS that could be considered for implementation in clinical trials,” said Dr. de Wit and his colleagues. “It can also be useful for related coronaviruses, such as the new COVID-19 coronavirus emerging from Wuhan, China.”
Several clinical trials of remdesivir for COVID-19 are underway in China, and other patients with COVID-19 have received the medication under a compassionate use protocol.