Story at a glance

  • The first clinical trial in the U.S. to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19 is underway at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
  • World Health Organization officials said Monday the drug has shown signs it could help treat COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Remdesivir trials are also underway in China.

The United States will begin the first clinical trial of Gilead Sciences’ drug remdesivir to treat hospitalized patients with the novel coronavirus, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Tuesday

The first participant is a U.S. citizen who was repatriated after being quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and volunteered to participate in the study. The trial is taking place at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. NIH said the study can be adapted to evaluate additional investigative treatments and to enroll participants at other sites in the U.S. and worldwide. 

This comes after officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) said the drug is showing signs that it may be able to help treat the deadly coronavirus. 

“There is only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy and that’s remdesivir,” Bruce Aylward, a WHO assistant director-general, said during a press conference in Beijing. 

Gilead Sciences is working with health authorities in China on two trials for infected patients, and the results of those trials are expected to be released at the end of April. Gilead said earlier this month it has been working with Chinese health officials to determine if remdesivir can help in treating COVID-19 symptoms. 

Remdesivir was previously tested in humans with Ebola virus disease and has shown promise in animal models for treating MERS and SARS, which are caused by other coronaviruses, according to NIH. 

The death toll from the coronavirus is now more than 2,700 worldwide with more than 80,000 infected, with the majority of cases in China. In the U.S., at least 57 cases have been reported.

Published on Feb 25, 2020