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Scientists may have found promising new treatment for Covid-19 after an experimental oral antiviral drug demonstrated the ability to prevent the coronavirus from replicating, the National Institutes of Health said Thursday, citing a new study.
The drug called TEMPOL can reduce Covid-19 infections by interfering with an enzyme that the virus needs to make copies of itself within human cells, which could potentially limit the severity of the disease, NIH researchers said. The drug was tested in a live virus cell culture experiment.
“We urgently need additional effective, accessible treatments for COVID-19,” said Dr. Diana W. Bianchi, Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the NIH. “An oral drug that prevents SARS-CoV-2 from replicating would be an important tool in reducing the severity of the disease.”
The results were published in the journal Science.
While vaccines have been incredibly useful in containing Covid-19 cases in the United States and other parts of the world, scientists say treatments are still badly needed for those who contract the virus.
According to the Johns Hopkins University, the United States reported an average of around 16,300 infections per day on Wednesday. Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir is the only drug that has received full US approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Covid and that must be administered in hospital via an IV.
Pfizer, which worked with a German drug manufacturer to develop the first approved Covid-19 vaccine in the United States BioNTech, is also developing an oral drug for Covid, which can be taken at home at the first sign of illness. The researchers hope the drug will prevent the disease from getting worse and prevent hospital stays. It started with an early trial in March.
The NIH researchers said they intend to conduct additional preliminary studies and look for ways to evaluate the drug in a clinical study on Covid.
The results of the study are “hopeful,” said Dr. Tracey Rouault, another NIH official who led the study.
“However, clinical trials are needed to determine whether the drug will be effective in patients, especially early on in the disease process when the virus begins to replicate.”