Coronavirus: UC Irvine researchers first in Southern California to test new treatment for COVID-19

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- Researchers at UC Irvine will be among the first in the nation to test an experimental anti-viral drug as a treatment for COVID-19.

It's a drug that has shown promise in treating other types of coronaviruses like SARS.

Dr. Alpesh Amin, chairman of UC Irvine's Department of Medicine, offered words of reassurance.

"I'm very confident that we will win this and get on top of this," he said.

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UC Irvine researchers officially launched the first Southern California trial of remdesivir, an anti-viral treatment specifically for COVID-19. The treatment, made by Gilead Sciences, has garnered extensive attention.

"When we test the patient for COVID-19, if they turn out to be positive, the patients will then get informed consent. And if they consent to be part of the trial, then we will enroll them in the trial," Amin said.

Remdesivir is a broad spectrum anti-viral treatment previously tested in humans for Ebola. In animal studies, it showed promise in treating SARS and MERS.

"It actually looks for unique genetic material that's on the virus and goes in there and attacks the virus and kills it," Amin said, "So, it's a kind of seek and destroy mission."

UCI is part of a National Institutes of Health study along with other medical centers across the country to administer remdesivir and compile patient outcomes, like improvement in symptoms and length of hospital stay.

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"Did they need to be intubated or not intubated," he said. "So we'll be looking at various parameters."

Besides efficacy, doctors will look closely at side effects and overall safety. Remdesivir is given intravenously, once a day for 10 days. UCI has already started admitting trial patients. Amin expects initial study participants will be the ones who are very ill. And how quickly the trial is starting gives Amin hope.

"Given the fact that we have this, I am confident we will actually be ahead of the curve as time goes on," he said.

If the drug shows promise, the goal is to give it to patients in a community setting. For more information on the study, click here.
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