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Edmonton virologist says antivirals may be best defence against COVID-19

Dr. Lorne Tyrrell says that antiviral treatments can reduce the severity and spread of COVID-19.
By: Stewart Wiseman
June 11, 2020
Photo: Travis McEwan/CBC

The hope remains that a COVID-19 vaccine can be safely and rapidly developed over the next year, but until a vaccine is readily available, a renowned Edmonton doctor believes that antivirals may be the best defence against the coronavirus. Canadian Medical Hall of Fame member Dr. Lorne Tyrrell is the founder and director of the University of Alberta's Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, and is worried that COVID-19 may remain in society long after the pandemic is declared over. Dr. Tyrrell notes that HIV and hepatitis C have never been eradicated from society, but antivirals have been used to contain their spread and symptoms. With this model in mind, Dr. Tyrrell believes that the use of antiviral drugs at the first sign of COVID-19 symptoms can be a strong defence in protecting individuals from the worst effects of the virus. Antivirals become less effective the longer symptoms remain untreated, and Dr. Tyrrell hopes that a faster COVID-19 test is developed to be able to treat the virus early.

The Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology is focused on the prevention, detection, and treatment of emerging viral diseases, and is currently studying an effective antiviral treatment for COVID-19. One antiviral drug that Dr. Tyrrell says has shown promise in treating COVID-19 patients is Remdesivir, which was previously used to treat Ebola patients. Remdesivir inhibits the virus's ability to replicate, which can prevents inflammation in the body and help save the lives of COVID-19 patients if administered early. Dr. Tyrrell is eager to see Remdesivir's efficacy in clinical trials, and notes that there is an increasing amount of global collaboration on antiviral COVID-19 treatment research. Dr. Tyrrell says that he has never seen this level of international research cooperation, and that across the world scientists are working their hardest to find a solution.

Source: CBC News Edmonton

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