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Coronavirus treatments: what drugs might work against COVID-19?

Dr Connor Bamford looks at some of the treatments being investigated in the fight against COVID-19.

Coronavirus treatments: what drugs might work against COVID-19?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, killing thousands and bringing economies to their knees, doctors, scientists and governments are on the lookout for safe and effective treatments to help those who are sick. And yet a large issue with COVID-19 is that there is, as yet, no cure.

Though there are treatments that can alleviate the symptoms – such as difficulty breathing – they do not address the underlying cause: the virus. The idea is that treating the symptoms will help prolong a patient’s life and buy time for their own immune systems to kick in and remove the infection.

While research into related coronaviruses over the last few decades has brought some promising looking drugs, only large clinical trials on patients with COVID-19 will be able to reveal precisely whether these interventions are safe and effective. Unfortunately, these kinds of large trials take time to carry out, but they are ongoing.

The World Heath Organization (WHO) announced it has helped to launch four “mega trials” against COVID-19 and there are countless more smaller ones coordinated in countries worldwide.

The WHO-backed trials are focusing on drugs that are thought to directly block SARS-CoV-2 – the virus strain that causes coronavirus COVID-19 – from replicating inside our lungs. Below are some of the main drugs these trials are looking at.



This is an intravenous antiviral drug that was developed to block infection with related coronaviruses and even Ebola, and is one of the drugs the WHO is helping to investigate.

Remdisivir has already been shown to work against SARS-CoV-2 in cells in a dish in a lab as well as in mice infected with the virus. Remdesivir specifically targets key viral proteins involved in making new copies of the virus and prevents them from working.

Remdesivir has already been used in some COVID-19 patients in the US and appears safe, but large trials are needed to really know if this is the case.

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Article originally appeared in The Conversation. 


The featured image has been used courtesy of a Creative Commons license. 


Dr Connor Bamford
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Dr Connor Bamford is a Research Fellow in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences. He is a virologist with over a decade of experience in studying how the immune system defends humans and other animals against disease-causing microbes like viruses, such as the hepatitis C virus, influenza virus and Zika virus.

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