We’re at the peak of the coronavirus health crisis in some countries, while others will see the worst of it in the weeks to come. That’s pretty much all we hear from the news, and the only thing we can do right now is wait for the lockdown measures to work. Social distancing should flatten the curve and give hospitals and governments some much-needed breathing room. But the fight against COVID-19 will be hardly over once the number of daily infections drops significantly. This is the sort of disease we’ll have to eradicate. Otherwise, it might become a seasonal illness like the flu, but far more contagious and deadly.
Attaining immunity can be done in two ways, and neither one is easy. A vaccine won’t be ready for another 12 to 18 months at least, and researchers are hopeful that it will all work. The virus, as it is now, mutates very little. But you’ll have to wait and hope you don’t get infected until then. The other way involves fighting the COVID-19 infection and hoping yours will be a mild case. While there are no specific cures to help boost the immune system in its battle with the pathogen, there are several promising treatments that are being tested in many hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients. And researchers from Australia have just discovered a new potential medicine that can kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The drug is so good that it eliminates any traces of the virus in as little as two days, but that’s only in lab testing.
Called ivermectin, the drug is hopefully something you’ll never have to deal with unless it can hasten COVID-19 recovery. That’s because the medicine was developed in the mid-1970s to fight parasites. Think head lice, scabies, and other diseases caused by roundworms and whipworms. The drug also works in onchocerciasis, or river blindness, where those affected experience severe itching, bumps under the skin as well as blindness. Taken once every six to 12 months, ivermectin can also kill larvae and adult worms. It’s also been used in HIV, dengue fever, and Zika treatments, As reports. That’s probably why researches have tried it against the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well.
A team of scientists from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) and the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity has concluded that the drug could form the basis of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“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,” BDI’s Dr. Kylie Wagstaff said about the drug. The doctor cautioned that tests were only performed in vitro for the time being, and actual human trials would be needed to prove the findings.
“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,” she said.
In other words, ivermectin isn’t a miracle cure either. It’s not a “game-changer” that anyone should feel good about until the science can back up this early enthusiasm. Just because a drug is approved for human use for a specific disease doesn’t mean it should be applied to any other ailment without proper testing, no matter how time-consuming the testing process might be.
It’s unclear when or even if ivermectin trials will start on COVID-19 patients.