(NY DAILY NEWS) – An antiparasitic drug often used to treat head lice has emerged as one of many existing treatments scientists hope can be repurposed for use in the ongoing battle against coronavirus.
While recent efforts have focused on anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and blood plasma therapy, researchers have also suggested ivermectin could one day be used to treat COVID-19, ABC News reported.
The drug, which also treats ailments including scabies, river blindness and rosacea, has seen success in two different preliminary studies. And while experts are hopeful, they emphasized research is still in its earliest stages.
“Finding a safe, affordable, readily available therapy like ivermectin if it proves effective with rigorous evaluation has the potential to save countless lives,” Dr. Nirav Shah, an infectious disease expert with NorthShore University HealthSystem, told the news outlet.
Earlier this month a team of scientists in Australia expressed similar optimism over the antiparasitic. A lab experiment conducted in a petri dish revealed invermectic killed the virus within two days.
“We found that 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. Kyle Wagstaff, leader of the tam from Melbourne’s Monash Biomedicine.
While coronavirus is not a parasite, researchers believe the treatment could block the viral RNA from invading healthy cells. Because it is unable to enter, its replication is slowed, which ultimately gives the patient’s immune system more time to fight the illness.
In a different study conducted at the University of Utah, scientists found “critically ill patients with lung injury requiring mechanical ventilation may benefit from administration of Ivermectin.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recently expressed concern “about the health of consumers who may self-medicate by taking ivermectin products intended for animals, thinking they can substitute for invermectin in humans.”
The drug is also commonly used to treat parasitic worms in animals.
“Additional testing is needed to determine whether ivermectin might be safe of effective to prevent or treat coronavirus,” the agency warned.