It seems like remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed by Gilead Sciences, has been showing promise in the battle against COVID-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Gilead reported that remdesivir, which was originally developed for Ebola, potently inhibited SARS-CoV-2 in human lung cell cultures.

It has also been found that the drug improved lung function in mice infected with the coronavirus.

These preliminary findings in animal studies explain the clinical efficacy of remdesivir in treating COVID-19.

Remdesivir has been given to many hospitalized COVID-19 patients. It has been undergoing clinical trials in humans since February. In April, one study suggested that patients who received remdesivir recovered more quickly.

Co-author of the current study Andrea Pruijssers of VUMC said, “All of the results with remdesivir have been very encouraging, even more so than we would have hoped, but it is still investigational, so it was important to directly demonstrate its activity against SARS-CoV-2 in the lab and in an animal model of disease.”

The findings, published in the journal Cell Reports, provide “the first rigorous demonstration of potent inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 in continuous and primary human lung cultures.”

In fact, it is the first study to suggest that remdesivir can inhibit the virus in a mouse model. However, more studies will be able to determine how much the drug benefits patients with different stages of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Pruijssers said, “We also are focusing on how to use remdesivir and other drugs in combinations to increase their effectiveness during COVID-19 and to be able to treat at different times of infection.”

So far, the virus has affected more than 12 million and killed over 557,000 people globally. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify and bring robust treatments and vaccines that could limit or prevent the spread of the infection.

The researchers said, “Broad-spectrum antiviral drugs, antibodies, and vaccines are needed to combat the current pandemic and those that will emerge in the future.”

Lead antiviral scientist Dr. Mark Denison said, “We hope that will never happen, but just as we were working to characterize remdesivir over the past six years to be ready for a virus like SARS-CoV-2, we are working and investing now to prepare for any future coronavirus.” “We want remdesivir and other drugs to be useful both now and in the future.”