Scientists found that a single dose of the drug, Ivermectin, could stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus growing in cell culture. The next steps are to determine the correct human dosage — ensuring the doses shown to effectively treat the virus in vitro are safe for humans.
A collaborative study led by the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) with the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), a joint venture of the University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital, has shown that an anti-parasitic drug already available around the world kills the 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.
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.