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Developments in antiviral and vaccine in fight against Covid-19

News of developments of antiviral drugs and vaccines to combat Covid-19 is important for the morale of healthcare workers and the general population, a leading Irish immunologist has told this newspaper.

Prof Luke O’Neill, Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, and author of the book Humanology,has been speaking in the media recently about developments in antiviral drugs that can fight Covid-19.

“Gilead have a drug called Remdesivir- developed against Ebola, likely to work against SARS-CoV2, lot of optimism [around that],” he told the Medical Independent yesterday (18 March).

Remdesivir is an investigational nucleotide analog with broad-spectrum antiviral activity – it is not approved anywhere globally for any use. 

Gilead have stated Remdesivir has demonstrated in vitro and in vivo activity in animal models against the viral pathogens MERS and SARS, which are also coronaviruses and are structurally similar to Covid-19. 

The limited preclinical data on remdesivir in MERS and SARS indicate that remdesivir may have potential activity against Covid-19, according to Gilead.

In terms of a vaccine Prof O’Neill said there are “35 companies racing- Moderna and CureVac [are] out [in] front”.

“Both are using genetic material (RNA) from the virus. This is quicker than using the whole virus and less likely to have unwanted side effects.”

MI asked Prof O’Neill whether he believed that news of developments in antiviral and vaccines for Covid-19 may have a positive impact on the morale of doctors and other healthcare workers who are currently in the frontline in the battle against the disease.

“This is essential,” he said. “People are very worried.”

“There is huge activity also with anti-inflammatories like tocilizumab (blocks IL6 receptor – already used in RA) and hydroxychloroquine.”

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