A study led by researchers at Monash University has found that the widely available anti-parasitic drug ivermectin is capable of killing the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) within 48 hours in a cell culture.

Although the finding is promising, the researchers cautioned that the tests conducted were in vitro and that trials need to be carried out in humans.

“Ivermectin is very widely used and seen as a safe drug,” said Kylie Wagstaff, PhD, leader of the study, in a statement. “We need to figure out now whether the dosage you can use it at in humans will be effective—that’s the next step.”

Ivermectin is an FDA-approved anti-parasitic drug, which has also shown efficacy in vitro against viruses such as HIV, and the Dengue, influenza, and Zika viruses.

“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,” Wagstaff said.

Although the researchers have not yet confirmed ivermectin’s mechanism of action, Wagstaff said in a statement that its action in other viruses could help narrow it down. Based on those other viruses, Wagstaff suggested that ivermectin may work by stopping the virus from “dampening down” the host cells’ ability to clear it.

Wagstaff had worked with other experts in 2012, when the drug and its antiviral activity were established. The research team began investigating ivermectin’s efficacy on severe acute respiratory coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) when the pandemic began.

“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,” Wagstaff said in the statement. “Realistically, it’s going to be a while before a vaccine is broadly available.”

REFERENCE
Lab experiments show anti-parasitic drug, Ivermectin, eliminates SARS-CoV-2 in cells in 48 hours [news release]. Monash University; April 3, 2020. https://www.monash.edu/discovery-institute/news-and-events/news/2020-articles/Lab-experiments-show-anti-parasitic-drug,-Ivermectin,-eliminates-SARS-CoV-2-in-cells-in-48-hours. Accessed April 13, 2020.