Old Drug Shows Promise In Killing COVID-19 Virus

A new study shows that an existing and well used, and inexpensive anti-parasitic drug already available around the world kills the COVID-19 virus within 48 hours.

The Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s Dr. Kylie Wagstaff, who led the study, said the scientists showed that the drug, Ivermectin, stopped the SARS-CoV-2 virus growing in cell culture within 48 hours.

“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,” Dr. Wagstaff said.

Ivermectin is an FDA-approved anti-parasitic drug that has also been shown to be effective in vitro against a broad range of viruses including HIV, Dengue, Influenza and Zika virus.

Dr. Wagstaff cautioned that the tests conducted in the study were in vitro and that trials needed to be carried out in people.

“Ivermectin is very widely used and seen as a safe drug. We need to figure out now whether the dosage you can use it at in humans will be effective – that’s the next step,” Dr. Wagstaff said.

“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.

Although the mechanism by which Ivermectin works on the virus is not known, it is likely, based on its action in other viruses, that it works to stop the virus ‘dampening down’ the host cells’ ability to clear it, Dr. Wagstaff said.

“As the virologist who was part of the team who were first to isolate and share SARS-COV2 outside of China in January 2020, I am excited about the prospect of Ivermectin being used as a potential drug against COVID-19,”  said Dr. Caly, Senior Medical Scientist at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Ivermectin was identified for its antiviral activity in 2012. Scientists have been researching Ivermectin for more than 10 years with different viruses.

The use of Ivermectin to combat COVID-19 will depend on the results of further pre-clinical testing and ultimately clinical trials. While shown to be effective in the lab environment, Ivermectin cannot be used in humans for COVID-19 until further testing and clinical trials have been completed to confirm the effectiveness of the drug at levels safe for human dosing.

Reference: “The FDA-approved Drug Ivermectin inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in vitro” by Leon Caly, Julian D. Druce, Mike G. Catton, David A. Jans and Kylie M. Wagstaff, 3 April 2020, Antiviral Research.
DOI: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2020.104787

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