A team of U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers deployed Feb. 15 to Japan to help identify critically ill patients who may receive a medication experts hope can combat the effects of coronavirus.
USPHS personnel are working with the U.S. Embassy in Japan, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and Gilead Sciences Inc., in the effort, according to a recent USPHS news release. The Gilead-developed treatment, remdesivir, “has shown promise in animal studies as a possible treatment for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are caused by other coronaviruses,” per the release.
American and Japanese citizens suffering from viral pneumonia may receive the treatment. More than 50 Americans were infected by the virus while on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan in early February. More than 700 of Japan’s 1,000-plus cases of coronavirus are from the ship.
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“As America’s Health Responders, our Commissioned Corps officers stand ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to preserve public health and national security during national and global public health emergencies,” Adm. Brett P. Giroir, M.D., assistant secretary for health, said in the release. “These officers are bringing care, compassion, and hope to patients who are severely ill and suffering from this infectious disease.”
Giroir told MOAA in a February interview that members of the Commissioned Corps “stand ready to deploy as needed” and that the situation is “changing on a daily basis.”
More than 600 USPHS officers have deployed in various roles to combat the virus, per the release. Officers are part of the repatriation of American citizens from China and Japan, and also working to assist in screening efforts at airports and other ports of entry.
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Some also are involved in developing a randomized control remdesivir clinical trial, per the release. The drug “has shown promising preclinical antiviral activity against SARS-COV-2, and we are hopeful that making this agent available to numerous American and Japanese patients who are severely ill with this virus will improve their chances of survival,” said Rear Adm. Richard Childs, M.D., the commanding officer of the Japan mission, in the release.