Covid-19 Fight Bringing Good News as Head Lice Drug Leads to Australian Breakthrough

AN antiparasitic drug used to treat head lice has shown some promising results in the fight against the coronavirus.

A team of Australian scientists has studied Ivermectin in vitro in connection with the pandemic, and say it has possibilities.

Ivermectin – which was developed in the 1970s and 1980s – was first used to treat tiny eel-like roundworms called nematodes in cattle, then for river blindness in humans and most recently to rid people of head lice.

The drug’s antiparasitic prowess has landed it on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines.

“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 Dr Kylie Wagstaff of Melbourne’s Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

Although the coronavirus is not a parasite, experts suggest that Ivermectin basically treats it like one, blocking the viral RNA – or ribonucleic acid – from invading healthy cells and giving the immune system more time to fight off the illness.

The Melbourne study took place at the cellular level, or in vitro. The next step, the researchers say, is “to determine the correct human dosage – ensuring the doses shown to effectively treat the virus in vitro are safe for humans.”

But with limited options elsewhere, experts say those early in vitro results are compelling.

“There are numerous examples of drugs with in vitro activity not proving effective in human studies,” said Dr Nirav Shah, an infectious disease expert from Illinois in America, speaking to ABC News.

“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.”

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Written by

Alex Trelinski


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