Researchers continue looking at existing medicine for help in the fight against the novel coronavirus, because those drugs already exist and could quickly make a big difference.
The latest lead for researchers is an anti-parasitic drug called ivermectin, which is often used to treat head lice.
According to ABC News, one early study showed ivermectin can kill the virus that causes COVID-19 in 24 to 48 hours.
“Finding a safe, affordable, readily available therapy like ivermectin if it proves effective with rigorous evaluation has the potential to save countless lives,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, an infectious disease expert with the NorthShore University HealthSystem.
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The study was only a first step. It only showed that the drug could kill the virus in a laboratory setting (in vitro). It is still entirely too early to know if that will translate into an effective treatment.
“There are numerous examples of drugs with in vitro activity not proving effective in human studies,” Shah said. “That being said, given there are no proven therapies against COVID-19 to date and we are in the midst of a pandemic, drugs that show promise in early in vitro or observational studies such as ivermectin should be rigorously evaluated to understand safety and effectiveness.”
In addition, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine issued a warning about ivermectin after learning of the above mentioned study. The group said it is worried people may try to self-medicate by using ivermectin intended for animals to treat their own illnesses.
“These animal drugs can cause serious harm in people. People should not take any form of ivermectin unless it has been prescribed to them by a licensed health care provider and is obtained through a legitimate source,” the group said in a statement. Click here to read the full warning.
Ivermectin was developed back in the 1970-80s. It is an anti-parasitic treatment that was first used to treat nematodes in cattle, then to combat river blindness in humans. It’s most recently been used as a topical treatment against head lice.
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COVID-19 is not a parasite, but investigators said ivermectin treats it like one–blocking the viral RNA from invading healthy cells. With it unable to enter the cell, the RNA is slowed from replicating, giving the patient’s immune system more time to fight it off.
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