Amid a barrage of research on finding treatment for new coronavirus, Australian scientists have found that a common anti-parasitic drug killed SARS-CoV-2 virus, growing in cell culture, within 48 hours in lab settings. 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.
Published in the journal Antiviral Research, the study from Monash University showed that a single dose of Ivermectin could stop the coronavirus growing in cell culture -- effectively eradicating all genetic material of the virus within two days. "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," said study lead author Dr Kylie Wagstaff.
Dr Wagstaff, however, 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," Wagstaff informed. 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," she 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 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 depends on pre-clinical testing and clinical trials, with funding urgently required to progress the work, the researchers noted.