Hopes rise in virus battle as US scientists hail drug trial - GulfToday

Hopes rise in virus battle as US scientists hail drug trial

vaccine drug 1

A lab technician visually inspects a filled vial of investigational coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug. Reuters

US scientists have hailed a potential breakthrough in the coronavirus fight after a trial showed patients responding to an antiviral drug, fueling global hopes for a return to normal despite mounting deaths and abysmal economic figures.

The news was enough to propel a rebound on Wall Street even after data showed the pandemic had plunged the United States into its worst economic slump in a decade, and Germany predicted its biggest recession since the aftermath of World War II.


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It came as the World Health Organization's emergency committee was due to meet Thursday for the first time in three months to discuss the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed more than 226,000 lives worldwide.

A clinical trial of the drug remdesivir showed that patients recovered about 30 percent faster than those on a placebo, in the first proof of successful treatment against the new disease.

"The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery," Anthony Fauci, the top US epidemiologist who oversaw the study, told reporters.

vaccine drug 1 Lab technicians load filled vials of investigational coronavirus disease treatment drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences facility. Reuters

Fauci likened the finding to the first retrovirals that worked, albeit with modest success, against HIV in the 1980s.

Remdesivir failed in trials against the Ebola virus and a smaller study, released last week by the WHO, found limited effects among patients in Wuhan, China, where the illness was first detected in December.

Senior WHO official Michael Ryan declined to weigh in on the latest findings, saying he had not reviewed the complete study.

"We are all hoping — fervently hoping — that one or more of the treatments currently under observation and under trial will result in altering clinical outcomes" and reducing deaths, he said.

US President Donald Trump has accused the UN health agency of not responding quickly or aggressively enough, although critics say he is trying to deflect attention from his own response.

US virus fatalities soared past 60,000 on Wednesday. The country has suffered the most deaths, with Britain's toll shooting up to the world's third worst at over 26,000.

More than 27,000 people have died in Italy.

Florida became the latest US state to move to reopen, with restaurants able to serve customers outdoors from Monday if tables are at least six feet (1.8 meters) apart.

Experts have warned that only a vaccine will allow the full removal of restrictions that this year put half of humanity under some form of lockdown.

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