Australian scientists may have proven what many Filipinos who use the medication know, which is that the widely-available anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin can kill the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) within 48 hours.
A media report noted scientists from Monash University in Melbourne showed that a single dose of the drug, could stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus growing in cell culture, effectively eradicating all genetic material of the virus within 48 hours.
“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,” Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s Dr. Kylie Wagstaff, who led the study, said.
The next step in the study will be to determine the correct human dosage and ensuring the doses shown to effectively treat the virus in the test tube are safe levels for humans.
The use of Ivermectin to combat Covid-19 depends on pre-clinical testing and clinical trials, with funding urgently required to progress the work.
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 the Zika virus.
The findings of the study were published on 3 April in Antiviral Research.
A collaborative study led by Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) in Melbourne, Australia, with the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), has shown that the anti-parasitic drug already available around the world kills the virus within 48 hours.
Scientists said the study showed 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.
Dr. Wagstaff cautioned that the tests conducted in the study were in vitro (test tube experiments) 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 in humans will be effective — that’s the next step,” Dr. Wagstaff said.
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.
Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Dr. Leon Caly, a Senior Medical Scientist at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) at the Doherty Institute where the experiments with live coronavirus were conducted, is the study’s first author.
“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,” Dr. Caly said.
Dr. Wagstaff made a previous breakthrough finding on Ivermectin in 2012 when she identified the drug and its antiviral activity with Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s Professor David Jans, also an author on this paper.
Professor Jans and his team have been researching Ivermectin for more than 10 years with different viruses.
Dr. Wagstaff and Professor Jans started investigating whether it worked on the SARS-CoV-2 virus as soon as the pandemic was known to have started.
The use of Ivermectin to combat Covid-19 would depend on the results of further pre-clinical testing and ultimately clinical trials, with funding urgently required to keep progressing the work, Dr. Wagstaff said.
FDA should act now
Another Philippine doctor asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to hasten the approval on the use of the drug amid the health crisis in the country.
In a radio interview, Philippine Heart Association former president Dr. Raffy Castillo added that the government should finally allow the importation of Ivermectin to address the surge in Covid cases.
“What I’m proposing is for the government to take the initiative to import it. If the government does not want to do it, allow the local government units (LGU) to import on their own. If the LGU will refuse, then allow the businessmen to do it as they are now allowed to buy their own vaccines,” Castillo said.
Castillo added that the FDA’s offer to apply Ivermectin as compassionate drug will just slowdown the process.
“The compassionate use the FDA is offering is only for press release. It is very impracticable, as it requires every patient to present a prescription to the FDA and pay P500 and will wait for two to three days for processing. The FDA should stop this offer,” Castillo added.
Castillo noted that the importation of Ivermectin will save the government the much-needed resources and time in addressing the alarming Covid cases.
“It is very easy to import once the government allows the importation of Ivermectin. They can distribute Ivermectin in different barangays in the country. It is cheaper and we need it right now, we need it several months ago, the sooner the better we have it, we cannot wait,” he added.