Trials of a drug developed to treat the Ebola virus which may have a role to play in combatting Covid-19, have been described as "encouraging" by infectious disease specialist Professor Paddy Mallon.
The preliminary results of a US government sponsored trial involving 1,000 patients have shown signs that the experimental drug, remdesivir, may have a role to play in fighting the pandemic. The drug was developed by Gilead Sciences.
The trial found that hospitalised patients with advanced Covid-19 recovered faster with remdesivir than patients who were in the placebo or control group.
The antiviral treatment reduced recovery time in patients by 31% - those taking the drug recovered in 11 days on average compared to 15 days for those taking the placebo.
The mortality rate was also lower in the remdesivir group (8%) than the placebo group (11.6%).
The trial involved 1,063 patients from 47 sites across the US and 21 sites in Europe and Asia.
Dr Anthony Fauci, a prominent advisor to the US President, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the preliminary results provided a “clear-cut, significant, positive effect”.
While the drug is showing promise in the treatment of Covid-19 the scientific and medical community have urged caution and say further studies are needed to fully test the potential role of the antiviral treatment.
Professor Paddy Mallon said the initial remdesivir trial findings were “encouraging” but the results of the study had not yet been probed or peer-reviewed by the scientific community.
The consultant at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin said Dr Fauci is highly regarded internationally and his comments are worth listening to in relation to the potential of the drug.
The preliminary results, he said, are “good news” but the study will still have to be validated and further studies will be required.
Professor Mallon said Ireland is “very active” in conducting standalone Covid-19 trials and participating in larger international trials.
“We need to get these research studies up and running rapidly so we can get the sort of results that are coming from this trial to the public quickly,” Professor Mallon told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke programme.
A treatment for Covid-19, he added, may come before a vaccine for the disease and the research community will be focusing on a number of approaches from disease prevention to treatment and vaccination.
Meanwhile results from a Covid-19 vaccine trial in the UK are expected by mid-June.
Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, John Bell, told BBC Radio that "several hundred people" have been vaccinated and the challenge now is to be able to manufacture at scale once the vaccine is approved by the regulators.