Physician Claudette Poole doesn’t take long to rattle off a list of antiviral medications she prescribes to her patients. “There really aren’t very many,” says Poole, a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
And for people with COVID-19, there’s just one approved for use: remdesivir, which doesn’t seem to save lives, but speeds recovery in those who do get well. Clearly, more antivirals would be nice to have — so why don’t we have them? Inventing them, it turns out, is not so easy.
Viruses rely on human cell machinery to copy themselves, so antiviral designers face a challenge: how to stop the virus without damaging the inner workings of healthy cells too.