Researchers are reporting their findings on how the drug remdesivir works to treat patients who have contracted the COVID-19 virus that is running rampant in China and spreading to other countries. The National Institutes of Health also announced that remdesivir is being used in the first clinical trial of an experimental treatment for COVID-19 in the U.S.
Not much is known about the function of this drug. Remdesivir basically works to block replication of a variety of coronaviruses. The drug does this through blocking a specific enzyme that is needed for viral replication. Their findings were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry by a team of researcher from the University of Alberta, Edmonton.
Blocking Viral Replication
Viruses basically have genetic machinery that replicates their genetic material, which is how they infect and spread through the host. Coronaviruses use a type of enzyme class called RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. This type of enzyme is complex and hard to work with in a lab.
The researchers used polymerase enzymes from the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). They found that when remdesivir is added, the enzyme actually incorporates the drug, which seems to block the replication of the genetic material of the viruses.
One hypothesis is that RNA that incorporates remdesivir change shape that does not fit with the polymerase enzyme. Further research is needed to study the structure of remdesivir and the RNA that incorporates this drug. This information will help scientists design better drugs that can better block these RNA polymerase enzymes and stop the virus from replicating itself.
Remdesivir is manufactured by the American company Gilead Sciences. The drug has not been yet approved for use anywhere in the world.