The first clinical trial to test the experimental drug, remdesivir made by Gilead Sciences Inc, to treat COVID-19 coronavirus has started with hospitalized patients at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
The announcement was made Tuesday by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The first patient to be treated with the drug is an American who returned to the US after having been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the port of Yokohama Japan earlier this month.
Two more are being treated in special biocontainment units and a fourth was transferred to the hospital from Texas after having been evacuated to the US from the cruise ship.
Clinical trials are also underway in China with another pair of antiviral medications that are commonly used to treat HIV.
Doctors eventually plan to recruit a total of 400 test patients in the US and from 50 locations around the world, who are hospitalized specifically with the pneumonia that develops as a result of the virus.
At present, there are at least 80,343 confirmed cases of COVID-19 novel coronavirus worldwide, and 2,705 people have died of the illness.