Scientists have successfully used an experimental drug on a single American coronavirus patient, who recovered, sparking hope as China battles the deadly epidemic.
Chinese health officials announced Monday that 103 more people died from coronavirus, bringing the total global death toll to 1013. The health ministry in Hubei province also confirmed 2097 new cases of the disease, which has now sickened more than 42,000 people around the world, the majority in mainland China. More than 6000 remained in critical condition in hospital, officials said. About 4000 people have recovered from the illness.
The outbreak has claimed 974 lives in Hubei province, the epicentre of the public health crisis. A Japanese citizen and an American citizen were recorded dead in Wuhan over the weekend.
More than 25,000 people remained hospitalised in mainland China, and roughly 76,000 were under medical observation, according to Chinese officials.
In Japan, an additional 65 people on board a quarantined cruise ship have tested positive for the virus, according to Japan’s Health Ministry. Pressure is mounting to test everyone on the ship now docked in Yokohama, where 135 people are known to have been infected.
American officials confirmed that physicians in Wuhan began testing an experimental drug called remdesivir last week.
The drug, made by Gilead Sciences, was successfully used on the first US patient, a 35-year-old man in Snohomish County, Washington. He recovered, but a single case can’t determine the extent to which the drug may have contributed.
Although remdesivir failed an ebola clinical trial, it has shown promise in laboratory tests against other coronaviruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Timothy Sheahan, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that instead of developing a new drug for each emerging virus, the hope is that remdesivir could be broadly useful and work against multiple coronaviruses.
“I think starting a clinical trial is essential for determining if this drug will work,” against the coronavirus, Sheahan said.
One of the clinical studies will test remdesivir on infected patients who are in the hospital but do not have severe symptoms. The other will test it on people with severe infections, who are on supplemental oxygen or have other complications.
Gilead is providing the drug to Chinese researchers at no charge, according to spokeswoman Sonia Choi.
An advance team of World Health Organisation experts has arrived in China to help lay the groundwork for a larger team, officials from the organisation said on Monday.
The team is led by Bruce Aylward, a Canadian physician and epidemiologist, who previously worked on the WHO’s response to the 2014 ebola outbreak in West Africa.
“Bruce and his colleagues will be working with their Chinese counterparts to make sure we have the right expertise on the team to answer the right questions,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, told reporters at a daily news conference.