In an advancement that could lead to the development and trial of clinical therapy for COVID-19, Australian researchers found that an anti-parasitic drug, which is already available in the market, can kill the novel coronavirus grown in cell cultures within 48 hours.
According to the study published in the journal Antiviral Research, the drug, Ivermectin, stopped the virus, SARS-CoV-2, from growing in cell culture within 48 hours and there was a significant reduction even at 24 hours.
The scientists said Ivermectin is an 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.
However, Kylie Wagstaff from Monash University in Australia, who co-authored the study, cautioned that the tests conducted were in vitro and that trials needed to be carried out in people.
“Ivermectin is widely used and seen as a safe drug. We need to figure out whether the dosage you can use it at in humans will be effective – that’s the next step,” Wagstaff added.
“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,” she said.
Scientists said that the mechanism by which the drug works on the virus is not known yet but based on its action on other viruses, it is likely that it works to stop the virus by ‘dampening down’ the host cells’ ability to clear it.
“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 Leon Caly, study co-author from the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia.
The scientists further cautioned that the use of Ivermectin to combat COVID-19 would depend on the results of future pre-clinical testing and ultimately clinical trials.