A coronavirus patient feared to be on the brink of death has recovered thanks to an experimental drug.
The critically ill woman, who contracted the virus in the US, was a test subject for the drug ‘remdesivir’ which had previously only been used on monkeys.
Medics had feared she would die of the flu-like illness, but the day after being given the drug via an intravenous drip her condition improved ‘consistently’, the American journal ScienceInsider reports.
The woman – who had not travelled to an infected country and is not known to have any contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient – is believed to be the first case of community transmission in the US.
She tested positive for the potentially deadly coronavirus on February 26.
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But George Thompson, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento who helped to care for the patient, says she is now ‘doing well’.
The patient, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was given the drug 36 hours after her diagnosis.
“We thought she was going to pass away,” Thompson said.
“The day after the infusion of the drug, she consistently got better.”
However, more tests will be needed to determine how effective the drug is in tackling COVID-19 as the scientists were unable to test for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
This would allow them to study the virus’s altered state 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,” Thompson continued.
“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.”
He added that there are also risks involved with treating COVID-19 patients with drugs who may not need them.
“For most any infectious disease, I think the earlier we start drugs the better,” he continued.
“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?”
Remdesivir, which was originally developed to treat ebola, is seen as a frontrunner among the potential treatments for COVID-19 which are currently being tested.
It is being evaluated in multiple trials, with doctors in the US, China and Italy using it to treat a limited number of severely ill patients.
Meanwhile, in the UK, a lab in Whitechapel in London is offering volunteers £3,500 to be infected with a form of coronavirus in the race to find a vaccine.
Hvivo, the company which owns the Queen Mary BioEnterprises Innovation Centre, is set to carry out trials with 24 volunteers at a time, who will need to be injected with the milder 0C43 and 229E strains.
Around 20 firms and public sector organisations are believed to be involved in global efforts to find a cure for coronavirus, which has now been declared a global pandemic by the WHO.
There are now more than 145,000 cases worldwide, and over 5,400 people have died, with Europe now the epicentre of the outbreak.
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