After three months, we are this much closer to finding the vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Potential vaccine for COVID-19
A collaborative study by several institutions have found that an anti-parasitic drug, which is already available around the world, kills the SARS-CoV-2 virus within 48 hours in cell culture.
The study was led by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) with the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) and a joint venture of the University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital.
This, however, does not mean that the drug can be administered on humans infected with COVID-19 yet, as the dosage that will work on human is not yet identified.
BDI's Dr Kylie Wagstaff, who led the study, said even a single dose could essentially remove all viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) by 48 hours, and even at 24 hours, there was a really significant reduction in it.
Ivermectin is an FDA-approved anti-parasitic drug that has also been shown to be effective against a broad range of viruses including HIV, Dengue, Influenza and Zika virus when tested in labs.
Dr Wagstaff cautioned that the tests conducted in the study were 'in vitro' i.e outside a living organism, and that trials needed to be carried out in people.
"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," he said in a press release.
"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.
"Realistically it’s going to be a while before a vaccine is broadly available. Although the mechanism by which Ivermectin works on the virus is not known, it is likely, based on its action in other viruses, that it works to stop the virus ‘dampening down’ the host cells’ ability to clear it, "Dr Wagstaff said.
Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Dr Leon Caly, a Senior Medical Scientist at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) at the Doherty Institute where the experiments with live coronavirus were conducted, is the study’s first author.
"As the virologist who was part of the team who were first to isolate and share SARS-COV2 outside of China in January 2020, I am excited about the prospect of Ivermectin being used as a potential drug against COVID-19,” Dr Caly said.
Dr Wagstaff and Professor Jans started investigating whether the drug worked on the SARS-CoV-2 virus as soon as the pandemic was known to have started.
The use of Ivermectin to combat COVID-19 would depend on the results of further pre-clinical testing and ultimately clinical trials, with funding urgently required to keep progressing the work, Dr Wagstaff said.
Whether the drug will be widely available and work on humans is very much dependant on further studies and trials.
Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope a cure and vaccine is found soon to get rid of COVID-19.