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Health Ministry Approves Applications To Use Remdesivir As Covid-19 Treatment

Health Ministry Approves Applications To Use Remdesivir As Covid-19 Treatment

Tasneem Nazari

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The Ministry of Health (MoH) has received several applications to bring in a new antiviral drug called Remdesivir to treat Covid-19 patients in the country.

Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that of the applications received, they have approved one or two and might introduce the drug into their fight against the virus.

Currently, there are no drugs specifically for the treatment of patients with Covid-19. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical treatment includes infection prevention, control measures and supportive care such as supplementary oxygen and breathing assistance machines when necessary.

Current treatment for Covid-19 depends on supportive care like supplementary oxygen and breathing assistance. (Credit: New Straits Times)

However, there are an array of drugs approved to treat certain Covid-19 symptoms and some experimental drugs that are currently being studied across the globe to potentially treat Covid-19.

Remdesivir is one of these experimentation drugs. Meanwhile, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are the two drugs approved for symptom management.

Remdesivir is an intravenous drug that has been in development for a decade. It was originally intended as a treatment for Ebola but it turned out not to work. Fortunately, studies in both healthy and infected people showed that the drug is fairly safe.

The drug works by attacking the viruses genetic material. The SARS-CoV-2 genome is made up of a string of something called “nucleotides”. When the virus replicates, these nucleotides get reconstructed, on by one, by something called a viral polymerase.

Chemical structure of remdesivir. (Credit: asbmb)

Enter remdesivir, which acts like a mimic for one of the types of nucleotides in that string. 

The virus gets tricked into incorporating the active form of the drug into its genome and prevents it from making more copies of itself.

The company which produced it, an American biotechnology company called Gilead Sciences recently started testing the drug on moderate to severe Covid-19 patients in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The company had started testing on US patients in February and it is also being studied in two Chinese trials.

Remdesivir had also undergone preliminary testing in two other coronavirus strains that caused outbreaks, SARS and MERS, which is why scientists are confident that it might be appropriate for Covid-19.

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