In a new study, researchers from the National Institutes of Health reported that the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir (also known as GS-5734) successfully prevented rhesus monkeys infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus (MERS-CoV) from becoming ill from this virus infection. Giving remdesivir before infection can prevent them from getting sick, while giving this drug after they are infected can improve their condition. The results were published online February 13, 2020 in the journal PNAS, entitled "Prophylactic and therapeutic remdesivir (GS-5734) treatment in the rhesus macaque model of MERS-CoV infection".
In order for viruses to proliferate, they usually need to be supported by infected cells. In many cases, the molecules they need to replicate their own genetic material are only found in the nucleus of the host cell before infecting other cells in the vicinity. But not all viruses enter the nucleus. Some viruses stay in the cytoplasm and must therefore be able to replicate their genetic material independently. To do so, they must bring their own "machined parts". A key player in this process is a specialized enzyme, RNA polymerase, composed of various subunits. This enzyme reads genetic information from the viral genome and transcribes it into messenger RNA (mRNA) and uses mRNA as a blueprint for proteins encoded in the genome.