Coronavirus Treatment: Chinese Researchers Test Two Antiviral Drugs

“But we will have to wait for a few weeks whether this gives any positive signal.”

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It seems like Chinese researchers are leaving no stone unturned in combating the new coronavirus outbreak.

On Wednesday, the co-chair of a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting said, Chinese researchers have been testing two antiviral drugs to treat the new coronavirus, which is now officially known as COVID-19, and the preliminary results of the clinical trials are a few weeks away.  

Former WHO virologist and the co-chair, Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, said, “The Chinese colleagues are very eager to participate in protocols which are being defined so that all the clinical trials are done according to the same standards and are looking towards the same outcome. They were very interested in working on such a master protocol.”

COVID-19, which was temporarily known as 2019-nCoV, emerged in Wuhan, a city in China in December, which as has infected more than 59,800 people and killed 1,367 in China so far. The virus has spread to at least 24 other countries, including the United States.

Dr. Kieny noted that some patients have already been given a combination of two antiviral drugs – ritonavir and lopinavir – which is sold under the brand name Kaletra for the treatment of HIV.

She said, “It would be excellent if it would work because this drug is available in particular as a generic formulation for the treatment of HIV, so this would clearly be a drug that would be available.”

The researchers are awaiting the results of Kaletra. Dr. Kieny said, “We don’t know the result, and we still have to wait for a few days, or a few weeks to have a result.”

Wuhan Institute of Virology has teamed up with Gilead Sciences to test an experimental antiviral drug called remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19.

Dr. Kieny said, “They will very soon start to dose patients on remdesivir, which had been tested without much success with Ebola, but Ebola virus and coronavirus are different and it may have a better success with corona.”

“But we will have to wait for a few weeks whether this gives any positive signal,” she added.

Meanwhile, China’s Hubei province has reported an additional 14,840 new cases and 242 deaths as of February 12. The province said it is starting to include “clinically diagnosed” cases in its figures.