In a major breakthrough, a joint study led by researchers from Monash University's Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) in Melbourne, Australia and Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), has shown that an anti-parasitic drug which is already availablein the market can be used to kill within 48 hours.
Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute's Dr. Kylie Wagstaff, who led the study, told Medican Express that the drug, Ivermectin, was capable of stopping the COVID-19 coronavirus 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.
It is to be noted that Ivermectin is an FDA-approved drug that is also effective in vitro against a broad range of viruses including HIV, Dengue, Influenza and Zika virus.
Dr. Wagstaff, however, stressed that the tests conducted in the study were in vitro and trials should be done on people too.
"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.
"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," added Dr Wagstaff.
Dr Wagstaff also said that the mechanism by which Ivermectin works on the virus is still unknown but it seems that the action of this drug is based on its action in other viruses, that it works to stop the virus 'dampening down' the ability of the host cell 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 first author of the study.
"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.
The findings of the study were published in Antiviral Research.