Researchers try combining remdesivir with a second drug to deliver a "one-two punch" to virus

Potential COVID-19 treatment enters new testing phase
Potential COVID-19 treatment enters new testi... 02:31

Bill Clark, 57, looked forward to his follow-up visit at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital. "It's always a great day to feel healthy after what I went through," he said. 

Just three weeks ago, he was discharged after a battle against COVID-19.

"I started wondering, how bad is this going to be?" he said. "Am I close to dying? 

Clark took part in a groundbreaking global trial with early results that showed remdesivir reduced average hospitalizations from 15 to 11 days. 

Dr. Aneesh Mehta was the lead investigator of the National Institute of Health trial at Emory University, where she is chief of infectious diseases. 

"I think remdesivir, it's going to be one important tool, but we also need to look for other ways to help our patients," Mehta said. 

In the next phase of the trial, Mehta and her colleagues are adding even more fire power to the fight against COVID-19.

Combining remdesivir — to stop the virus from multiplying — with a powerful anti-inflammatory drug, Baricitinib, a so-called immune modulator that aims to prevent organ damage by calming  down an inflamed immune system.  

Remdesivir stops the virus from replicating inside the cell. and the immune modulator puts out the fire.

"What the remdesivir here does is it stops the spark and the immune modulator will hopefully be putting dirt on the fire to put it out," Mehta said. " A one-two punch."
 
Mehta's team is looking at whether this powerful combination could make recovery even faster and possibly reduce the mortality rate.in a way remdesivir alone has not yet been shown to do.

It's a multiple-drug strategy based on years of AIDS research. 

"A drug can block this virus," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, when he announced remdesivir was the first drug shown to be effective in treating COVID-19.

It was reminiscent of a time more than three decades ago when the first HIV treatment emerged. 

"It was reminiscent of 34 years ago, in 1986, when we were struggling for drugs for HIV and we had nothing," Fauci said. 

It took nearly 10 years to show a combination of drugs was needed to treat AIDS. Now they're applying that lesson learned to COVID-19.

  • Jon Lapook
    Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook