Avigan under NRI examination ahead joining Covid-19 protocol: virologist  

Mohammed El-Said
3 Min Read

=New Japanese drug Avigan remains an attractive prospect in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, amid hopes the antiviral drug could help treat infections.

Dr Mohammed Ahmed Ali, Professor of Virology at the National Research Institute (NRI), said that research on the drug is currently underway at the institute to ensure its effectiveness. This is the first step before it is pushed forward for use as part of the treatment protocol for the coronavirus. 

He expects that the drug will show encouraging outcomes as it has done in Japan and China, where it achieved 91% success in treating coronavirus patients. Ali said the final report on the drug will be delivered to Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar by the end of this week. 

Avigan, which is scientifically called “favipiravir”, is an antiviral drug under development by Toyama Chemical (Fujifilm group) of Japan. 

The drug has produced encouraging outcomes during clinical trials on 340 patients in the Chinese provinces of Wuhan and Shenzhen. Evidence shows improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients who were treated with the drug. This compares to 62% in those without the drug, depending on the results of the X-rays conducted on the patients.  

Avigan is expected to become available in Egypt next week, although the Ministry of Health has refrained from giving an opinion on the drug before trials have taken place, despite approvals in other countries, according to Ali.

Meanwhile, drug makers are racing to find a cure for the highly contagious coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 70 coronavirus vaccines currently in development globally, with three candidates already at the human trials stage.

On Tuesday, China announced it has approved three coronavirus vaccine candidates for clinical trials, state-run Xinhua reported. The first vaccine to be approved and to enter clinical trial was developed by a research team with the Institute of Military Medicine under the Academy of Military Sciences.

The other two vaccines were developed by a Beijing-based unit of Nasdaq-listed Sinovac Biotech, and by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group.

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Mohammed El-Said is the Science Editor for the Daily News Egypt with over 8 years of experience as a journalist. His work appeared in the Science Magazine, Nature Middle East, Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev and other regional and international media outlets. El-Said graduated with a bachelor's degree and MSc in Human Geography, and he is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Cairo University. He also had a diploma in media translation from the American University in Cairo.