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SLU’s COVID-19 Treatment Trial Offers Ray of Hope

by Carrie Bebermeyer on 04/30/2020
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Researchers are heartened that a medication may shorten the length of the illness and save lives.

Sarah George

Sarah George, M.D., is an associate professor of infectious diseases at Saint Louis University.  Photo by Ellen Hutti.

Researchers at Saint Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development were cheered by early data from a clinical trial showing that patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 recovered faster when they were given the experimental drug remdesivir, cutting recovery time from 15 to 11 days. The study also showed that patient mortality rates dropped from 11.6% to 8% for those given the study medication.

SLU was one of 68 study sites around the country that enrolled patients in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial. The study enrolled patients who were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.

“This is exciting news,” said Sarah George, M.D., associate professor of infectious diseases at Saint Louis University and the principal investigator of the St. Louis trial. “We now have data that says this drug reduces the time people are ill with COVID-19.

“We think this drug may save lives.”

While George and other experts emphasize that more study is needed, the trial’s initial data provides evidence that patients given remdesivir, which was developed by Gilead Sciences, Inc., recovered 31% faster than those given a placebo. This is welcome news as no treatment currently exists for COVID-19.

We still need more research, prevention and a vaccine, but this good news offers a ray of hope during this long and terrible pandemic. 

Sarah George, M.D.

At a White House press conference on Wednesday, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), called the drug the new standard-of-care.

George expressed gratitude to the patients who participated in the trial, noting that the research could not have advanced without their help and that of the Vaccine Center staff.

 “We still need more research, prevention and a vaccine, but this good news offers a ray of hope during this long and terrible pandemic,” said George. “I’m very proud of the work taking place at Saint Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development and I’m grateful to each patient who agreed to participate in the study.”

The Saint Louis University Center for Vaccine Development is one of an elite group of research facilities that investigates vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases. One of only nine federally-funded Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEU), SLU is on the front lines in the fight against pandemics and global health crises.

Renewed as a federally-funded VTEU in December, SLU has been a VTEU member since 1989. As a VTEU, SLU can conduct Phase 1 through 4 vaccine and treatment trials, including clinical studies in collaboration with partners from industry.