An Experimental Antiviral Drug May Protect Against Nipah Virus

An experimental antiviral drug given to green monkeys in Africa protected them from the Nipah virus.

2 min read

After much speculation, the Kerala government has confirmed Nipah virus in a 23-year-old man who had been admitted to a private hospital in Ernakulam on May 30. The confirmation came in from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune on 4 June.

After 2018’s Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, that killed 17 people, scientists believe they may have stumbled on to a cure.

Nipah is an emerging zoonotic disease reported across South-East Asia region, with a fatality rate between 40 to 75 percent, according to the World Health Organisation.

An experimental drug given to African green monkeys protected them from Nipah virus. The antiviral drug, remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences, is also being tested against the Ebola virus during the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


The New York Times reported that in the ongoing trial eight African green monkeys were given doses of Nipah Virus. Four of them were given the intravenous remdesivir. The ones given the antiviral drug survived while the remaining four died within eight days.

Currently, the only cure for Nipah Virus infection is a monoclonal antibody that is still experimental. It was used in India during the outbreak of Nipah Virus in 2018.

The History

The Nipah virus was first detected in Malaysia in 1998. It is a lethal virus that can cause encephalitis and pneumonia. It can be caught from animals and spreads via human to human contact. Fruit eating bats are the primary source of this virus.

In 2017, donors and vaccine companies formed a $500 million partnership to invent vaccines against three diseases with pandemic potential . Nipah was one of the top priorities apart from Lassa and MERS.

The NYT quotes Dr Emmie de Wit, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who says that if the drug will be approved it will give an extra treatment for Nipah which could be used relatively quickly. The next step, the doctor said, will be to test how long after infection the drug can be given and still cure the animals.

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