Abright doctor from the West African country of Nigeria Babafemi Taiwo is leading part of a major study on antiviral drug Remdesivir appearing to treat COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has killed more than 200,000 people around the world.
CNN interviewed Dr. Taiwo, whose name suggests he is a twin from the southwestern part of Nigeria, to discuss the promising results. Remdesivir, the antiviral drug made by Gilead Sciences, appears to help coronavirus patients recover more quickly than no treatment at all, but it does not significantly reduce death, according to preliminary data from the National
“For the first time we have a large, well-conducted trial” showing a treatment helps, he said. “This is not a miracle drug … but it’s definitely better than anything we have.”
Fauci said the partial results showed that the drug had “a clear-cut significant positive effect,” shortening the time to hospital discharge by four days. By comparison, antiviral drugs for the flu shorten illness by about one day on average and only when started within a day or two of symptoms first appearing.
In the remdesivir study, about 8% of those on the drug died versus 11.6% of the comparison group, but the difference is not large enough for scientists to say the drug was the reason.
No information was given on side effects. Fauci said full results would be published in a medical journal soon. He said final numbers might change a bit but that the study’s overall conclusion would not.
Dr. BABAFEMI TAIWO PROFILE
Dr. Babafemi Taiwo is Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago. He is also Director, Clinical Core of the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research, and Leader of the Northwestern University Site of the NIAID-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG). At Northwestern University, he leads clinical and translational HIV researchers from infectious diseases, hepatology, neurology, radiology, cardiology and nursing, and directs the development and implementation of NIH-sponsored interventional and observational HIV studies.
He has received research grants (to Northwestern) from industry sponsors for investigator-initiated studies. Dr. Taiwo is the Director, Research in Africa, NU Center for Global Health. He has been involved in HIV treatment, research, and training in Nigeria for two decades. His undergraduate education and initial medical training took place at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan 1991. He is Principal Investigator of the NIH D43 Multidisciplinary NeuroAIDS Training and Research Program in Nigeria