COVID-19 is an acute respiratory illness borne from infection with SARS-CoV-2 – a positive single-stranded RNA virus. The SARS-CoV-2 virus shares structural similarities to SARS and MERS, which cause acute severe respiratory infections. The incubation period for the development of clinical COVID-19 symptoms from the time of initial SARS-CoV-2 viral infection is highly variable, ranging from 2 to 14 days.
While more than 80% of infected patients spontaneously resolve the infection, up to 20% of COVID-19 patients have clinically severe complications which require hospitalization. Progression of the disease to respiratory failure has been common in severely ill patients and is associated with a high risk of death.
Siddiqi et al The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation. DOI: 10.1016/j.healun.2020.03.012
Due to its very high transmission rate, including from asymptomatic persons spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus in respiratory droplets, COVID-19 poses a serious public health risk in the U.S. and globally. Currently, there are no vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection. Just one therapeutic, intravenous remdesivir, is available and only under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization for treatment of patients with clinically severe COVID-19.
Social distancing and self-quarantining measures have been partially effective at slowing the spread of the virus in populations. However, as mandated stay-at-home orders become less restrictive, an urgent need is arising for oral, potent and safe therapeutics administered at or near the time of symptom onset. These therapies will be paramount in preventing disease progression and viral spreading in community settings.