A recently published study from the National Institutes of Health reports on the efficacy of Gilead’s promising antiviral therapy remdesivir in the fight against COVID-19, showing that the drug was able to “significantly reduce” clinical disease and lung damage in rhesus macaque monkeys infected with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
The current study of remdesivir, a drug developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. and NIAID-supported investigators, involved two groups of six rhesus macaques. One group of monkeys received remdesivir and the other animals served as an untreated comparison group. Scientists infected both groups with SARS-CoV-2. Twelve hours later the treatment group received a dose of remdesivir intravenously, and then received a daily intravenous booster dose thereafter for the next six days. The scientists timed the initial treatment to occur shortly before the virus reached its highest level in the animals’ lungs.
Twelve hours after the initial treatment, the scientists examined all animals and found the six treated animals in significantly better health than the untreated group, a trend that continued during the seven-day study. They report that one of the six treated animals showed mild breathing difficulty, whereas all six of the untreated animals showed rapid and difficult breathing. The amount of virus found in the lungs was significantly lower in the treatment group compared to the untreated group, and SARS-CoV-2 caused less damage to the lungs in treated animals than in untreated animals.
The investigators note that the data supports initiating remdesivir treatment in COVID-19 patients as early as possible to achieve maximum treatment effect. The authors, from NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, also note that while remdesivir helped prevent pneumonia, it did not reduce virus shedding by the animals. “This finding is of great significance for patient management, where a clinical improvement should not be interpreted as a lack of infectiousness,” they write.
Remdesivir (RDV; GS-5734) was manufactured at Gilead Sciences by the Department of Process Chemistry (Alberta, Canada) under Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) conditions. Batch number 5734-BC-1P was solubilized in 12% sulfobutylether-β-cyclodextrin in water and matching vehicle solution was provided to NIH.