Clinical Trial to Treat COVID-19 Begins

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round magenta objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus shown was isolated from a patient in the U.S.NIAID-RML

A randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the investigational antiviral remdesivir in hospitalized adults diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha.

This is the first clinical trial in the United States to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19, the respiratory disease first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

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The first trial participant is an American who was on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Yokohama, Japan and volunteered to participate in the study.

There are no specific therapeutics approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the newly emergent SARS-CoV-2 virus (formerly known as 2019-nCoV).

Infection can cause mild to severe respiratory illness, and symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc., is an investigational broad-spectrum antiviral treatment. It was previously tested in humans with Ebola virus disease and has shown promise in animal models for treating Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are caused by other coronaviruses.

Clinical trials of remdesivir are also ongoing in China.

Participants in the NIH-sponsored trial must have laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and evidence of lung involvement, including rattling sounds when breathing (rales) with a need for supplemental oxygen or abnormal chest X-rays, or illness requiring mechanical ventilation.

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All potential participants will undergo a baseline physical exam before receiving treatment. Eligible study participants will then be randomly assigned either to the investigational treatment group or the placebo group.

Participants in the investigational treatment group will receive 200 milligrams of remdesivir intravenously on the first day of enrollment to the study. They will receive another 100 mg each day for the duration of hospitalization, for up to 10 days total.

The placebo group will receive, at an equal volume, a solution that resembles remdesivir but contains only inactive ingredients.

Clinicians will regularly monitor participants and will assign them daily scores based on a predefined scale of clinical outcomes that considers factors such as temperature, blood pressure and use of supplemental oxygen, among others.

Participants also will be asked to provide blood samples and nose and throat swabs approximately every two days. Researchers will test these specimens for SARS-CoV-2.

Initially, investigators will compare participant outcomes on day 15 in both the remdesivir group and the placebo group to see if the investigational drug increased clinical benefit compared to placebo.

Outcomes are scored on a seven-point scale ranging from fully recovered to death. Investigators will reevaluate this scale after reviewing data from the first 100 participants.

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