Texas researchers among those studying how effective Remdesivir is at treating COVID-19 patients

A drug initially created to treat Ebola may soon get emergency approval by the FDA for use against the coronavirus.

A recent study showed Remdesivir can cut recovery time for COVID-19 patients.

And a group of researchers from Texas A&M University were among the first to look at it as a possible treatment.

Whenshe Liu is the chemistry chair at Texas A&M in College Station.

Liu’s research typically focuses on cancer, but the lockdown of Wuhan and early cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. prompted him to switch gears.

[REPORTER: “How much of your work right now is focused on COVID-19?]

“100 percent,” Liu responded.

His research started making waves in early April.

Now, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is praising the drug’s benefits after the National Institute of Health tested Remdesivir on hundreds of hospitalized coronavirus patients and found it cut recovery time by more than 30 percent.

“It’s highly significant. If you look at the time to recovery being shorter in the Remdesivir arm, it was 11 days compared to 15 days,” Dr. Fauci explained.

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“That drug has been studied for Ebola. It was not effective for Ebola in the randomized control trial that we have for that, but it did show really good lab data for this new virus. So a lot of us had really good hopes about it,” said Dr. Crystal Howell, who is an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the University of North Texas System College of Pharmacy.

Howell, a pharmacist who specializes in infectious diseases, said previously in early April that she was optimistic about Remdesivir, while skeptical of the drug Hydroxychloroquine, which has been used to treat COVID-19 patients in emergency situations.

She's still cautious of Hydroxychloroquine.

”What we are seeing is it doesn’t seem to have any improvement for the virus itself,” Liu explained. “So, this drug can cause fatal arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms.”

Other medical experts are also optimistic about Remdesivir.

“Although a 31 percent improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept, because what it has proven is a drug can block this virus,” Dr. Fauci said.

Liu admitted there’s plenty of work still to do, and said his team here in Texas is working with two other drugs that could also help attack the coronavirus.

“I think we need alternative medicines. Remdesivir is not enough,” he added.

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