Remdesivir: The drug created to fight Ebola is being studied as a COVID-19 treatment.

What is remdesivir?

How do Remdesivir works against COVID 19?

What is India’s stand on remdesivir?

What are the other lines of treatment being investigated?

UPSC can list these Questions under

GS paper 2 (Issues related to health, education and Human Resources.)

What is the context about?

  • The drug remdesivir has been under the spotlight as a possible treatment for critical cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
  • Globally, it is one of the four possible lines of treatment being investigated in the Solidarity trials under the aegis of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • While the drug is yet to get approval in any country to treat COVID-19, recent studies have claimed they have found promising results.

What is remdesivir?

  • It is a drug with antiviral properties that was manufactured by US-based biotechnology company in 2014, to treat Ebola cases.
  • It was also tried in patients of MERS and SARS, both caused by members of the coronavirus family, but experts said it did now show promising results back then.

How do Remdesivir works against COVID 19?

  • Coronaviruses have a single-strand RNA as their genetic material.
  • When the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2 enters a human cell, an enzyme called RdRP helps the virus replicate. Remdesivir works by inhibiting the activity of RdRP.
  • When the virus engulfs itself around a human cell, it injects its RNA inside the cell. The RdRp enzyme causes viral replication. Remdesivir inhibits the enzyme and stops further replication.

How promising are these results?

  • No study on remdesivir so far has been large enough to be viewed with credibility.
  • The study published in The New England Journal of Medicine looked at 53 patients, who represent too small a cohort to draw definitive conclusions. Also, 13% of the patients in the study died.

What is India’s stand on remdesivir?

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said it can consider using the drug if local manufacturers are willing to procure it.
  • Remdesivir is currently not available in India.
  • The ICMR plans to wait and watch for the results of WHO’s Solidarity trials to make an assessment on the efficacy of remdesivir for COVID-19 treatment.

What are the other lines of treatment being investigated?

  • Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, is undergoing multiple trials to assess if it can be used to treat severe COVID-19 cases.
  • Again, ritonavir and lopinavir are two antiviral drugs used for treatment of HIV. These too work by inhibiting the virus;s RNA. Specifically, they target the enzyme that helps the virus split proteins. In HIV patients, these two antiviral drugs work together to decrease the viral load in blood. Their use in COVID-19 patients seeks the same outcome.