Researchers are exploring whether an antiparasitic drug created by a Donegal professor is the answer in the battle against Covid-19.
The race towards a treatment for coronavirus has led scientists to look at ivermectin, a common head lice treatment created by Ramelton-born parasitologist William C Campbell.
A study by Monash University in Melbourne found that ivermectin may combat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19, within 48 hours. However, this study was not tested in humans or in animals.
The results have intrigued the medical world, but lead researchers say they are a long way from finding if an effective dosage can prevent and treat COVID-19 in humans.
William C. Campbell, Ireland’s only Nobel prize winner, shared his thoughts on the findings this week with the Royal Irish Academy.
He wrote: “Perspective can be boring when prospects are exciting – but perspective is needed!”
Prof Campbell said evidence of the lethal effect of ivermectin on the SARS CoV-2, virus was seen ‘in vitro’ and that is a long way from demonstrating such an effect in animals (in vivo tests).
He added that the fact that ivermectin is an approved drug for use in humans will be “enormously helpful” in the conduct of clinical trials. But the drug is only approved for use against parasites, not against viruses and this awareness could unduly raise expectations.
Prof Campbell also stated that “the probability of ivermectin being used safely to kill the virus in people must be considered low”. He also said, on a positive note, that further research could reveal if a safe dosage of ivermectin might reduce the rate of viral replication in the mammalian body, or affect the virus in other ways.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings for people not to self-medicate by taking ivermectin as a coronavirus cure or prevention for pets or people.
Ivermectin tablets are approved for use in people for the treatment of some parasitic worms and ivermectin topical formulations are approved for human use by prescription-only for the treatment of external parasites such as headlice and skin conditions such as rosacea. Ivermectin should also only be given to animals for approved uses or as prescribed by a vet.