As death tolls continue to rise from COVID-19, the scramble for new treatments to counter the virus surges on. Now, researchers have identified an anti-parasitic drug that is able to kill off the virus in cell cultures within just 48 hours. Widely available around the world, the researchers hope that it may soon be used to fight off the virus.
Initially discovered by Dr Kylie Wagstaff from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute in Australia in 2012, it was soon recognized for its antiviral effects. Aside from potentially being able to fend off the novel coronavirus, the drug, known as Ivermectin, has also shown to be effective against other viruses including HIV, Dengue, influenza and Zika virus in vitro. Thus, as soon as the pandemic was confirmed to have begun, Wagstaff and her team are said to have begun research looking at Ivermectin’s potential for fighting off SARS-CoV-2.
Wagstaff said, “We need to figure out now whether the dosage you can use it at in humans will be effective -- that's the next step...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 exactly how the drug works against the virus is still unknown, the researchers suspect that it works by stopping the virus from weakening the host cells’ ability to clear it. This comes as a similar mechanism was shown to have been at play when used against other viruses.
Despite promising results from their early experiments however, the researchers say the drug still needs to undergo further preclinical testing before it may even reach clinical trials and then treatment status. Further funding is also urgently required or this process to continue.
The study’s first author, Dr Leon Caly, nevertheless 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.”