Experimental coronavirus drug brings woman ‘back from brink of death’

US scientists managed to save a coronavirus victim they feared "was going to pass away" with an experimental drug.

The critically ill patient, who was confirmed as the the first likely case of community transmission in the US, tested positive for COVID-19 on February 26, reports an American science journal.

Scientists from the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento say the female patient had not travelled to an infected area or been in known contact with a confirmed case.

When her condition deteriorated permission was given under compassionate use laws from the US Food and Drug Administration to use her as a test subject for the drug named 'Remdesivir.'

The drug had previously only been tested on monkeys in the US , infected with a variation of coronavirus called Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

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George Thompson, an infectious disease specialist at the university was on the team that cared for the patient and spoke to ScienceInsider about her case.

He revealed the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons is now "doing well", despite fears she would die of the virus which causes pneumonia-like symptoms.

She was given the drug via a drip, just 36 hours after her was diagnosed and her condition took a turn for the worst.

"We thought she was going to pass away," Thompson said of the patient.

"The day after the infusion of the drug, she consistently got better."

Despite the success, more tests will be needed as the scientists were unable to test her blood for something called "polymerase chain reaction" (PCR). The enables scientist to study the state of the altered state of COVID-19 virus after treatment.

"I can't prove it's related. I wish we had been able to do serial PCR testing of her blood, but we couldn't because of lack of resources.

"With most investigational drugs tested in, say, macaque monkeys, there’s a nice correlation between the administration of the drug and a drop in the amount of virus in the blood.

"That's what we hoped we could have seen in this patient."

Thompson added that he believes the quicker critically-ill people are treated the better chance they have – however this must be weighed up against the risks involved.

He continued: "For most any infectious disease, I think the earlier we start drugs the better.

"But it’s a risk versus benefit question. What if this drug causes liver toxicity in 50% of the people, and we've given it to somebody who was probably going to do well without it?"

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Several other clinical trials of remdesivir for COVID-19 believed to be under way in China.

Here come seriously ill human patients with COVID-19 were give the experimental drug in a bid to recover – the findings are still to be revealed.

Elsewhere in the US monkeys are being infected with a deadly form of coronavirus in a bid to find a successful vaccine for the current COVID-19 epidemic, before being successfully treated with remdesivir.

Detailing the findings, Drug Target Review reported in February one group of primates, housed at a lab in Hamilton, Montana, received the drug 24 hours before infection with MERS-CoV.

US National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists say the wonder drug was found to be successful when given to macaques before they were infected and are now hopeful they can trial it with the COVID-19 (Wuhan) epidemic, which is part of the same family of viruses.

Over in the UK a lab in Whitechapel, London, an experimental lab is set to pay volunteers £3,500 to be infected with a form of coronavirus in a bid to find a vaccine.

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Hvivo, the company which owns the laboratory at Queen Mary BioEnterprises Innovation Centre at Whitechapel in east London, will infect batches of 24 human guinea pigs with the 0C43 and 229E strains of the virus.

These are thought to cause very mild respiratory symptoms and are far less serious than the killer Covid-19 rampaging through the world currently.

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It is believed around 20 firms and public sector organisations are taking part the a global effort to develop a cure for COVID-19, with more than $2bn (£1.53bn) invested worldwide to date.

So over 138,000 people have officially contracted COVID-19, which originated in the Mainland Chinese city of Wuhan in December. Around 6,000 people are believed to have died, over half of which were within China.

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