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Current Affairs

Remdesivir and Coronavirus

Date: 04 May 2020 Tags: Biotechnology


In all the debate over the efficacy of remdesivir in treating COVID-19 patients, what has been clear is the way the drug acts against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2.



Research last month concluded that remdesivir indeed works in a way that prevents Coronavirus from replicating.



  • Remdesivir is designed to obstruct the stage of replication, when the virus creates copies of itself, followed endlessly by the copies creating copies of themselves.

  • Once the virus enters the human cell, it releases its genetic material, which is then copied using the body’s existing mechanism. At every stage of infection, various human proteins, virus proteins, and their interactions come into play.

  • At the replication stage, the key viral protein at play is an enzyme called RdRp (an enzyme is a kind of protein that speeds up chemical reactions within a cell).

  • In scientific literature, such an enzyme is called a polymerase (the p is RdRp stands for polymerase) or a replicase. In any case, this is the enzyme that is targeted by remdesivir.

  • In order to replicate, the copy machine processes raw material from the virus RNA, broken down by another enzyme with that specific function.

  • When a patient is given remdesivir, the inhibitor, it mimics some of this material, and gets incorporated in the replication site. With remdesivir replacing the material it needs, the virus fails to replicate further.

  • These coronavirus polymerases are sloppy and they get fooled, so the inhibitor gets incorporated many times and the virus can no longer replicate.

  • Previously, the same team had found similar results for remdesivir action against the coronavirus that causes MERS. The drug itself was designed to act against the Ebola virus, which is not a coronavirus.

  • Researchers have imaged the high-resolution structure of the SARS-CoV-2 replicase complex, with remdesivir bound to it.

  • The structure shows where the virus’s RNA template enters the copy machine, where remdesivir is incorporated, and where the process of replication is terminated.