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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Research on Broad-spectrum Antiviral Could Aid Public Health Response to Coronavirus Outbreaks

New research from scientists at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health has revealed that remdesivir (RDV, GS-5734) – a broad-spectrum antiviral medication previously shown to be effective against coronaviruses (COVs) like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome)-CoV – is more therapeutically effective against the Middle East respiratory coronavirus in mice than comparative antiviral treatments.

The news of this treatment’s effectiveness comes as an outbreak of a new type of pneumonia has been identified in Wuhan City in China. As of Jan. 6, the virus had infected nearly 60 people in the mainland city and was being monitored for potential spread to Hong Kong.

Coronaviruses like MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) have been identified by the World Health Organization as having “pandemic potential,” but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved a treatment option for any human CoV infection. Studies are currently being evaluated for treatment of Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infections in humans with a combination of lopinavir, ritonavir and interferon beta.

“Preliminary reports say the viral pneumonia in Wuhan is being caused by a new Group 2b SARS-like strain of coronavirus,” said Dr. Timothy Sheahan, assistan t professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School.

Dr. Sheahan worked with Dr. Ralph Baric, William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology, and Dr. Amy Sims, associate professor of epidemiology, to release findings on the effectiveness of RDV in Nature Communications.

“Previous publications show that remdesivir works against SARS and SARS-like viruses found in bats, as well as all other coronaviruses we have tested this against,” said Dr. Sheahan. “Thus it is likely to work against coronaviruses that are emerging now in Wuhan, as well as those that may emerge in the future.”

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