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Covid-19 breakthrough: China mass producing Ebola wonderdrug after 'promising' results

CORONAVIRUS is being tackled head-on by Chinese drugmakers who have started mass-producing an experimental drug which was originally created to fight Ebola.

The deadly disease, which is threatening to become a global pandemic, has now claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people and Britons are becoming increasingly concerned about the ever-rising number of quarantined individuals in the UK. 

Officially known as Covid-19, the outbreak is a new strain of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which has affected thousands over the years, yet scientists have never produced a cure or protective vaccine for humans. But, that could change, after scientists recorded success using an experimental wonderdrug made by American biotech company Gilead.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are “preparing protocols for in vitro and in vivo studies of the antiviral remdesivir, which has shown promise against other coronaviruses in animal models”.

The first coronavirus patient in the US, who was hospitalised in Washington State after returning from China, was treated with remdesivir in late January and his symptoms improved.

Mark Denison, a virologist at Vanderbilt University who has studied coronaviruses since 1984, previously hinted that the drug could be beneficial.

He said on January 27: “Remdesivir has worked actively against every coronavirus we’ve tested, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t have activity against this one.

“The challenge with SARS, MERS, this novel coronavirus, and other viruses that cause severe pneumonia is the window of opportunity.

“You have to get to patients early if you want to have a significant impact on disease.”

The ideal treatment for Covid-19 may well be a drug like remdesivir plus monoclonal antibodies, Dr Denison believes.

He added: “The idea of using those in combination would have profoundly good prospects.”

Suzhou-based drug company BrightGene Bio-Medical Technology confirmed on Tuesday night that it had developed the technology to sympathises remdesivir.

Its stocks have surged 20 percent since, despite the drug not being licensed or approved yet.

Chinese researchers are now testing the drug on 761 patients in clinical trials in Wuhan.

BrightGene said that before selling the drug, it will have to license it from Gilead, conduct clinical trials and obtain approval. But remdesivir may not be of much value if the drug fails to produce results from clinical trials, or if the epidemic comes under control soon.

Last week, Gilead said it has patented remdesivir in China, including filing applications for use on coronaviruses.

The company also said that it is working with Chinese, US and World Health Organisation officials to rapidly determine whether the drug can be used to treat the virus.

Based on the World Health Organisation’s declaration that coronavirus is now a health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK nationals to leave China where possible.

If the situation continues to escalate the pressure on the Chinese health system may intensify, and it may also become harder for people to travel.

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