A sign points the way to the emergency department at Maine Medical Center in Portland in this March 13, 2020, file photo.

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Three patients at a Portland hospital have been enrolled in trials for a potential treatment for the new coronavirus.

Maine Medical Center enrolled its first patient with severe coronavirus symptoms into a clinical trial for the drug remdesivir on April 9, according to hospital spokesperson Caroline Cornish. The hospital now has three patients in remdesivir trials. None have moderate symptoms.

The drug, manufactured by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc., which also is sponsoring the studies, has sparked hopes among some public health officials in the race to find an effective treatment for the virus.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

Remdesivir was investigated as a potential treatment for the Ebola virus during the West Africa outbreak during 2014 to 2016, and recent animal trials suggested it could be used to treat MERS, another coronavirus, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine examined patients infected with the coronavirus who were given doses of remdesivir. It found that 68 percent saw some improvement after treatment, but the researchers said additional trials were needed to confirm its effectiveness. That study was sponsored by Gilead.

The drug has yet not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of the coronavirus.

Currently, there are more than 300 clinical trials underway into various treatment options, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study’s authors noted that so far “no proven effective therapies for this virus currently exist.”

David Seder, Maine Medical Center’s chief of critical care and lead investigator in the hospital’s clinical trials, said in a statement that new trials are needed to identify effective treatments for the coronavirus, otherwise health care workers on the frontline of the outbreak will “continue to be limited in how they can care for these patients.”

The studies are being organized under the Maine Medical Center Research Institute.

Doug Sawyer, Maine Medical Center’s chief academic officer, said in a statement that offering access to clinical trials like this is one of the hospital’s “responsibilities” to Maine residents.

“While participation in a clinical trial does not guarantee patients they will be cured, and not everyone is eligible for participation, without such trials we will never learn more about how to fight this novel disease,” Sawyer said.

Maine Medical Center is currently the only hospital in the state participating in the trials, which will eventually include 7,600 patients worldwide.