IVERMECTIN, an antiparasitic drug that is in use around the world, has been shown to kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus within 48 hours of application in cell cultures. This drug has been proven to be safe for the treatment of infections caused by various parasites including strongyloidiasis and trichuriasis, and to be effective in vitro against viruses including HIV, Dengue, influenza, Zika, and now SARS-CoV-2.
The study was conducted as a collaborative effort between the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University, Clayton, Australia, and the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity, a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital both in Melbourne, Australia. Leader of the study Dr Kylie Wagstaff commented: “We found that even a single dose could essentially remove all viral RNA by 48 hours and that even at 24 hours there was a really significant reduction in it.”
The exact mechanism of how ivermectin works on the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not known; however, it is hypothesised that, based on its action against other viruses, the drug stops the viruses’ ability to ‘dampen down’ the host cell’s clearance of the virus.
“As the virologist who was part of the team who were first to isolate and share SARS-CoV-2 outside of China in January 2020, I am excited about the prospect of ivermectin being used as a potential drug against COVID-19,” said study first author Dr Leon Caly, a Senior Medical Scientist at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory at the Doherty Institute where the experiments with live coronavirus were conducted.
“In times when we’re having a global pandemic and there isn’t an approved treatment, if we had a compound that was already available around the world then that might help people sooner. Realistically it’s going to be a while before a vaccine is broadly available,” Dr Wagstaff added. She did, however, caution that the tests conducted in the study were in vitro and that trials needed to be carried out in humans. The next steps include identifying the dose required for the drug to be efficacious in humans, and whether this dose will be safe. Nevertheless, this is a promising step forward in the quest to make a drug available for the treatment of COVID-19.