Researchers from Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) at Monash University in Australia have found that an anti-parasitic drug called Ivermectin could kill the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, within 48 hours in a laboratory setting.

Monash University, in alliance with the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), led the study.

Ivermectin holds the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval as an anti-parasitic medicine. In-vitro, the drug demonstrated activity against different viruses including HIV, dengue, influenza and Zika.

According to findings from the latest study, a single dose of the drug could stop SARS-CoV-2 growing in cell culture within two days.

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute scientist Dr Kylie Wagstaff said: “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.”

The mechanism of Ivermectin against the coronavirus is still unknown. However, the drug’s action on other viruses indicates that it may block SARS-CoV-2 from diminishing the ability of the host cells to clear it.

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Antiviral Research, a journal by Elsevier, published the study findings.

Additional tests and clinical trials in humans must take place to validate the drug’s safety and effectiveness as potential Covid-19 treatment.

In the next research phase, scientists intend to establish the correct dosage for humans to ensure those effective in-vitro are safe.

Dr Wagstaff added: “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.

“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.”