An antiviral pill Molnupiravir, developed by Merck can cut hospitalization and reduce the risk of death by 50% among people suffering from COVID-19. Molnupiravir is the first oral antiviral treatment for the coronavirus. A pill can be administered at a much earlier stage of infection and it's easy to take. As it’s an effective treatment and is started at a much earlier stage (upon diagnosis of infection) it keeps the hospitals from overflowing and also prevents the spread of disease.
Richard Plemper, a virologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta says it's better to “hit early, hit hard”. The already approved treatments for Molnupiravir like Remdesivir and monoclonal antibody $#@!tail from biotech firm Regeneron are administered by injection and can only be administered when the patient is hospitalized. But Molnupiravir can be taken by the patient orally and at the ease of their home.
Molnupiravir is a nucleoside analogue just like Remdesivir, which means it mimics some of the building blocks of RNA. But both compounds work in an entirely different way. When SARS-CoV-2 gets an entry to a cell, the virus duplicates its RNA genome and form new viruses. Remdesivir is a ‘chain breaker’ as it stops the enzyme from adding further links to the chain. While, Molnupiravir, gets incorporated into burgeoning RNA strands and, once it gets inside it wreaks havoc. It shifts its configuration and sometimes mimics the nucleoside cytidine and sometimes uridine. Hence the RNA strands become faulty blueprints for the next round of viral genomes. So, whenever the compound gets inserted and a conformational shift happens, it gives rise to a point mutation. When enough mutations accumulate, it results in the collapse of the viral population.