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According to a new study published in the prestigious journal Nature, an international team of researchers have identified 21 existing drugs that stop the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, from replicating. The new research could have bold implications for future of medical care during the pandemic.

The scientists were able to confirm that at certain concentrations, 21 drugs — out of a 100 tested — showed antiviral activity in lab tests. Interestingly, four of them were deemed effective in combination with remdesivir, a drug that the US has been stockpiling thanks to its potential in treating COVID-19.

"As infection rates continue to rise in America and around the world, the urgency remains to find affordable, effective, and readily available drugs that can complement the use of remdesivir, as well as drugs that could be given prophylactically or at the first sign of infection on an outpatient basis," Sumit Chanda from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and senior author of the study, said in a statement.

Thirteen of the 21 drugs are already undergoing clinical trials to show their effectiveness in treating COVID-19. Two have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but for treating allergies and leprosy, not COVID-19.

"This study significantly expands the possible therapeutic options for COVID-19 patients, especially since many of the molecules already have clinical safety data in humans," Chanda said. "This report provides the scientific community with a larger arsenal of potential weapons that may help bring the ongoing global pandemic to heel."

Testing is still underway of the drugs in animal models and "organoids," which are miniaturized human organs made out of human tissue. If shown effective in those trials, the researchers are planning to ask the FDA to authorize clinical trials on human patients, according to the statement.

The 21 drugs were initially identified through a much broader Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-backed project called ReFRAME, an effort to test 12,000 existing drugs for their potential effectiveness in treating COVID-19.

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