Aussie researchers ‘find' drug that may kill COVID-19 in 48 hours
An anti-parasitic head lice drug available around the world has been found to kill COVID-19 in the lab within 48 hours, Australian Media has reported Saturday.
According to the reports, a Monash University-led study has shown a single dose of the drug Ivermectin could stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus growing in cell culture.
Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute's Dr Kylie Wagstaff said: “We found that even a single dose could essentially remove all viral RNA (effectively removed all genetic material of the virus) by 48 hours and that even at 24 hours there was a really significant reduction in it.”
While it's not known how Ivermectin works on the virus, the drug likely stops the virus dampening the host cells' ability to clear it. The next step is for scientists to determine the correct human dosage, to make sure the level used in vitro is safe for humans.
“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,” Dr Wagstaff added. “Realistically it's going to be a while before a vaccine is broadly available.”
Scientists expect it could be at least a month before human trials. Before Ivermectin can be used to combat coronavirus, funding is needed to get it to pre-clinical testing and clinical trials.
Ivermectin is an FDA-approved anti-parasitic drug also shown to be effective in vitro against viruses including HIV, dengue and influenza. The study is the joint work of Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity.
The study findings have been published in Antiviral Research.
Health Authorities Warning
Health authorities are warning people against self-medicating with this drug saying it could be fatal.
While praising the work of the researchers involved in the study, Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos urged people not to misuse the substance.
"There is no reason to be buying lice treatment unless you're going to be using it on your children's hair," Ms Mikakos said during a press conference updating Victorians on the coronavirus pandemic.
"I just want to stress that because we've heard about people overseas who have heard about potential developments and then have ingested drugs that have been used in a completely inappropriate way and have died as a result. I don't want to see people rushing out to their pharmacies or their supermarkets buying lice treatments now because scientists are doing this work. It is lethal to swallow this shampoo. We will end up with people in the hospital."
Mikakos also expressed concern people might hoard the drug, leaving none for people who needed it for proven uses — something which had happened with other medications.
A US man recently died and his wife was hospitalised after they ingested a fish-tank cleaning chemical which contained a form of chloroquine, another drug which had shown some potential as a coronavirus treatment.