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The Gilead Sciences office stands in Oceanside, Calif., on April 29, 2020.

Mike Blake/Reuters

Gilead Sciences Inc said on Wednesday it has started an early-stage study of its antiviral COVID-19 treatment remdesivir that can be inhaled, for use outside of hospitals.

The company said the trial, which will enroll about 60 healthy Americans aged between 18 and 45, will test the drug particularly in those cases where the disease has not progressed to require hospitalization.

The drug is currently used intravenously and an inhaled formulation would be given through a nebulizer, which could potentially allow for easier administration outside hospitals.

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Remdesivir was granted emergency use authorization in the United States to treat severe cases of COVID-19 in patients who are hospitalized.

Gilead is hoping to target the disease at the onset with the inhaled form of remdesivir, by delivering the drug directly to the primary site of infection.

Remdesivir is believed to be at the forefront in the fight against the coronavirus after the drug helped shorten hospital recovery times in a clinical trial.

Gilead also plans to start additional clinical trials to evaluate remdesivir when used in combination with anti-inflammatory medicines.

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