Ivermectin, a drug used to fight parasites in third-world countries, could help reduce the length of infection for people who contract coronavirus for less than a $1 a day, according to recent research by Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.
Prof. Eli Schwartz, founder of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Disease at Sheba, conducted a randomized, controlled, double-blinded trial from May 15, 2020, through the end of January 2021 to evaluate the effectiveness of ivermectin in reducing viral shedding among nonhospitalized patients with mild to moderate COVID-19.
Ivermectin has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration since 1987. The drug’s discoverers were awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in medicine for its treatment of onchocerciasis, a disease caused by infection with a parasitic roundworm.
Over the years, it has been used for other indications, including scabies and head lice. Moreover, in the last decade, several clinical studies have started to show its antiviral activity against viruses ranging from HIV and the flu to Zika and West Nile.
The drug is also extremely economical. A study published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Therapeutics showed that the cost of ivermectin for other treatments in Bangladesh is around $0.60 to $1.80 for a five-day course. It costs up to $10 a day in Israel, Schwartz said.
In Schwartz’s study, some 89 eligible volunteers over the age of 18 who were diagnosed with coronavirus and staying in state-run COVID-19 hotels were divided into two groups: 50% received ivermectin, and 50% received a placebo, according to their weight. They were given the pills for three days in a row, an hour before a meal.
The volunteers were tested using a standard nasopharyngeal swab PCR test with the goal of evaluating whether there was a reduction in viral load by the sixth day – the third day after termination of the treatment. They were swabbed every two days.
Nearly 72% of volunteers treated with ivermectin tested negative for the virus by day six. In contrast, only 50% of those who received the placebo tested negative.