Patients and physicians worldwide are facing tremendous health care hazards that are caused by the ongoing severe acute respiratory distress syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. Remdesivir (GS-5734) is the first approved treatment for severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It is a novel nucleoside analog with a broad antiviral activity spectrum among RNA viruses, including ebolavirus (EBOV) and the respiratory pathogens Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2. First described in 2016, the drug was derived from an antiviral library of small molecules intended to target emerging pathogenic RNA viruses. In vivo, remdesivir showed therapeutic and prophylactic effects in animal models of EBOV, MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, the substance failed in a clinical trial on ebolavirus disease (EVD), where it was inferior to investigational monoclonal antibodies in an interim analysis. As there was no placebo control in this study, no conclusions on its efficacy in EVD can be made. In contrast, data from a placebo-controlled trial show beneficial effects for patients with COVID-19. Remdesivir reduces the time to recovery of hospitalized patients who require supplemental oxygen and may have a positive impact on mortality outcomes while having a favorable safety profile. Although this is an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19, approval of this drug will not be sufficient to solve the public health issues caused by the ongoing pandemic. Further scientific efforts are needed to evaluate the full potential of nucleoside analogs as treatment or prophylaxis of viral respiratory infections and to develop effective antivirals that are orally bioavailable.
Keywords: COVID-19; MERS-CoV; SARS-CoV; SARS-CoV-2; antiviral; coronavirus; ebolavirus; remdesivir.
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