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  1. Originally Answered: Is there any cure for the novel Wuhan Coronavirus?

    At the moment no but the similarity of the virus to SARS and MERS as well as the known general biology of these RNA viruses point to a few initial treatment options.

    The treatments used during SARS involved antivirals including interferon and ribavirin. Ribavirin was found to be ineffective at the time but next generation therapies are generally more effective. The typical standard of care for viral infections is alpha-interferon.

    The biggest news is that China has suggested that AbbVie’s Aluvia, a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir used for HIV may be effective. Lopinavir is a HIV-1 protease inhibitor and prevents HIV from infecting cells. The ritonavir notably enhances other protease inhibitors and those can work to reduce the virulence of various viruses. [1]

    Lopinavir, protease inhibitor

    Ritonavir, protease inhibitor

    Gilead is currently repurposing remdesivir which is a nucleotide analog prodrug similar to sofosbuvir used to treat hepatitis C. Theses RNA polymerase inhibitors are fairly broad spectrum and work for a variety of viruses and this was previously evaluated for MERS and Ebola and showed efficacy but wasn’t elected to proceed since there were better therapeutic options. [2][3] The 2019-nCoV is an RNA virus and these nucleotide analogs tend to be effective against such diseases.

    One issue with 2019-nCoV drug development is that developing animal models for coronavirus has been proven difficult. SARS-CoV was able to infect mice but generally didn’t produce symptoms. MERS-CoV didn’t infect rodents but did infect non-human primates. [4] Until an animal-model can be developed for Coronvirus, drug development will continue to be slow.

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