Diamond Princess Passenger to Receive Experimental Coronavirus Drug

Scanning electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2 virus emerging from cells cultured in the lab (NAIAD)

Published Feb 25, 2020 6:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

The University of Nebraska Medical Center is beginning a clinical trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir to test its effectiveness against the novel coronavirus COVID-19, and the first patient receiving the drug will be a patient who was evacuated from the cruise ship Diamond Princess. Entry into the trial requires reasonably serious symptoms, like the need for supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation. 

There is currently no proven treatment to combat COVID-19 infection, but remdesivir has been tested in China and in one case in Snohomish County, Washington. It has been extensively trialed in patients with Ebola virus, and it has shown promise in animal trials for treating Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), both of which are caused by other coronaviruses. 

“We urgently need a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19. Although remdesivir has been administered to some patients with COVID-19, we do not have solid data to indicate it can improve clinical outcomes,” said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci. “A randomized, placebo-controlled trial is the gold standard for determining if an experimental treatment can benefit patients.”

As of Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported more than 77,000 confirmed cases in China and about 2,000 cases in the rest of the world. There have been 14 confirmed cases reported in the United States, plus an additional 39 cases among people repatriated from overseas - 36 of them from Diamond Princess. 

On Tuesday, with numbers of infections on the rise in multiple countries overseas, American health officials sounded a warning about the possible course of the outbreak in the United States. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States. It’s not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control, speaking at a briefing Tuesday.