Coronavirus cure: Scientists' breakthrough antidote 'holds key to halting outbreak'

SCIENTISTS are in the early stages of testing a cure for the latest outbreak of Coronavirus after finding and developing a new antiviral drug that had a positive affect on monkeys carrying a disease within the coronavirus family.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and has been around for hundreds of years. The current strand of the virus, which is rapidly spreading through mainland China, is one of the fastest spreading kinds known as SARS-CoV-2, which scientists are currently working on a cure for.

The virus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, is a coronavirus and belongs to the same family as the pathogen that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

It causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19, which can spread from person to person.

Another viral respiratory disease in the coronavirus family caused by a novel coronavirus is known as MERS.

This stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS‐CoV and was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Coronavirus

Scientists are in the early stages of testing a cure for the latest outbreak of Coronavirus (Image: GETTY)

Coronavirus China

Scientists have found and developed a new antiviral drug that had a positive affect on monkeys carrying a disease within the coronavirus family (Image: GETTY)

MERS-CoV has caused nearly 2,500 cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome since its discovery in 2012, with fatalities in approximately 35% of cases.

Most recently, researchers have reported an antiviral therapy that is effective against the MERS-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in monkeys.

This could potentially pave the way for a cure to the current fast-spreading form of the disease that has taken over Wuhan, mainland China and has begun to spread across the world.

According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) the broad-acting antiviral drug remdesivir has been shown to be effective against MERS-CoV in vitro (animal cells) and in mice.

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Coronavirus China

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (Image: GETTY)

Virologist Dr. Emmie de Wit and colleagues tested the efficacy of remdesivir against MERS-CoV in a species of monkey known as rhesus macaques.

Animals were treated with remdesivir as a preventative measure, starting 24 hours before the MERS-CoV infection took over.

They also treated the animals with the antiviral 12 hours after infection had begun.

The animals treated in the early stages before the infection took over exhibited no clinical respiratory signs and were free of lung lesions 6 days after infection.

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Coronavirus China

The current strand of the virus is one of the fastest spreading kinds (Image: GETTY)

Coronavirus China

Researchers have reported an antiviral therapy that is effective against the MERS-coronavirus (Image: GETTY)

Clinical signs, viral replication, and lung lesions were also reduced in the animals treated 12 hours after the infection had begun.

However, the results were to a lesser extent to those who were treated with the drug in the earlier stages.

PNAS argues the results suggest that remdesivir might be a promising treatment candidate for MERS that warrants further clinical trials.

Additionally, the organisation said remdesivir’s “broad antiviral effects” may render it useful against other coronaviruses.

The countries best and worst prepared for an epidemic

The countries best and worst prepared for an epidemic (Image: EXPRESS)

Authors say, this includes the form of the virus currently emerging from China.

The news comes after a North Korean official was executed for going to a public bath while he was meant to be in quarantine, according to reports.

The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported the trade official was arrested and immediately shot after risking the spread of coronavirus by visiting the public bath.

The man had been placed in isolation after travelling to China as Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un imposed military law to enforce the lockdown, sources said.

Coronavirus China

The drug could pave the way for a cure to the current fast-spreading form of the disease that has taken over Wuhan (Image: GETTY)

So far North Korea has not confirmed any cases of coronavirus, but has taken drastic measures to stop is spreading over its border with China.

North Korean officials have implemented the policy of isolating anyone who had been to China or had contact with Chinese people.

Mr Jong-un vowed to “rule by military law” against anyone who left quarantine without approval.

Experts say an epidemic there could be dire because of its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure.

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