KEY POINTS

  • The Wuhan coronavirus death toll has hit 910 worldwide
  • Some good news: the number of new coronavirus cases on Saturday was smaller than the number on Friday
  • Human trials of "remdesivir," a drug made by U.S. firm Gilead Sciences, is being carried out on coronavirus patients in Wuhan

While the mortality rate from the raging human Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak stands at slightly more than two percent compared to the 9.6 percent from the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic of 2002 to 2003, the former remains more contagious with the dozens of daily deaths terrifying people worldwide.

Hubei remains the epicenter of the Novel coronavirus outbreak, which as of 11:00 a.m. Hubei time Monday, had killed 910 people (including two outside China) and infected 40,554 others since it began in late December 2019. The Hubei Health Authority reported 91 more people died of the coronavirus in Hubei province Sunday. 

On the other hand, China's National Health Commission (NHC) reported 89 new deaths from the disease in mainland China on Saturday caused by the coronavirus. China’s total death toll of 811 on Saturday is the same number attributed to SARS epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

On the bright side, newly confirmed coronavirus cases in the mainland only rose by 2,656 on Saturday, down from 3,385 new cases Friday. Another piece of good news: human trials in Wuhan of an American-made drug shown to be "highly effective" in treating the Novel coronavirus in laboratory trials enters its first week this week.

A new clinical study said "remdesivir," an antiviral drug originally developed by California-based Gilead Sciences as a treatment for Ebola virus disease, "could be an effective treatment for 2019-nCoV and should be formally investigated as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of 2019-nCoV pneumonia."

Remdesivir last week entered clinical trials in Wuhan on patients with the novel coronavirus. It was previously tested in two trials in China on patients with moderate and severe symptoms of 2019-nCoV, said Merdad Parsey, Gilead’s chief medical officer.

The trials are being conducted at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan under Phase III conditions. Gilead Sciences is shipping enough doses to treat 500 patients and is accelerating production in case the clinical trials prove successful.

The new trials immediately began a day after Chinese researchers recommended remdesivir be assessed in humans as a potential treatment for 2019-nCoV. China’s National Medical Products Administration has approved applications by the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences to conduct trials evaluating remdesivir.

Coronavirus has spread around the world since it first emerged in Wuhan -- but WHO will not name the virus after the city Coronavirus has spread around the world since it first emerged in Wuhan -- but WHO will not name the virus after the city Photo: AFP / Manan VATSYAYANA

“We hope good results will be achieved in the trials,” said Sun Yanrong, deputy director of the science and technology ministry’s China Biotechnology Development Center.

In the study published in Cell Research, researchers wrote, “Our findings reveal that remdesivir and chloroquine are highly effective in the control of 2019-nCoV infection in vitro."

“Since these compounds have been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease."

The findings were published February 4 in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Cell Research. The results from trials of remdesevir have impressed China so much it quickly applied for a patent to use the drug to treat 2019-nCoV. China made the patent application on January 21, said a statement on the website of the Wuhan Virology Institute.