Ivermectin: Can This Nobel-Prize Winning Drug Treat COVID-19?


Ivermectin treat covid ? An approved broad-spectrum drug with proven antiviral activity against numerous DNA and RNA viruses. Ivermectin is also an antiparasitic agent that treats numerous conditions, including lymphatic filariasis, strongyloidiasis, onchocerciasis, trichuriasis, and ascariasis. 

Ivermectin is an essential global medicine according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Table of Contents

What is Ivermectin?

First discovered in 1975, ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug that was initially used in veterinary medicine to treat and prevent acariasis and heartworm. Following approval for use in humans, physicians prescribed ivermectin for numerous diseases, including strongyloidiasis, head lice, scabies, river blindness (onchocerciasis), trichuriasis, ascariasis, and lymphatic filariasis. 

As of 2019, it was one of the most highly prescribed medications in the United States with nearly 150,000 prescriptions. Ivermectin tablets are sold under the brands Ivomec and Noromectin, and the drug is also available as a generic medicine at a low cost.

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Ivermectin History

Scientists at Merck Pharmaceuticals first identified ivermectin treatment in a veterinary drug screening project in the 1970s. Researchers initially focused on its use to treat parasitic infections in animals, including nematodes such as flatworms and roundworms, and arthropods such as fleas and lice. Merck then partnered with the Kitasato Institute in Japan to approve ivermectin for use in animals in 1981. 

Research into ivermectin medicine did not stop with veterinary medicine. Following its initial approval, the Merck team discovered that the drug worked to treat humans affected by onchocerciasis (river blindness) – a disease transmitted from blackflies carrying the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus. Following trials, regulators approved the drug in 1987, and it is distributed to dozens of countries without charge. Researchers William Campbell and Satoshi Omura won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2015 for their research. 

Diseases Treated With Ivermectin

Ivermectin has been called a “wonder drug” for its ability to treat hundreds of millions of people for numerous diseases that include:

  • Lymphatic filariasis – Parasitic infection caused by thread-like microscopic worms that live in the human lymph system
  • Acariasis – Rash-like condition caused by mites, accompanied sometimes by papillae (bumps) or papule (cysts), hives (welts), and severe itching sensations
  • Scabies – Skin infestations caused by mites where a parasite burrows and lays eggs into the upper skin layer, causing severe itching, rash, and papillae (bumps)
  • River blindness/Onchocerciasis – Parasitic disease caused by Onchocerca (filarial worm) that results in blindness
  • Trichuriasis (whipworm, hookworm) – Parasitic worm infections that cause bowel disease
  • Heartworm – Parasitic roundworm that causes cough, lethargy, weight loss, breathing problems, and bulging ribs in dogs 
  • Strongyloidiasis – Intestinal infection caused by Strongyloides stercoralis, a type of roundworm that can live and reproduce in the intestines for decades without causing symptoms
  • Head lice – Wingless insects that live on the human scalp and feed on blood

Ivermectin as a COVID-19 Treatment

Despite claims of misinformation by the corporate media, ivermectin was used to treat COVID-19 in many countries worldwide. Scientific research and evidence supporting the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 includes:

Ivermectin for Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19 Infection: A Systematic Review, Meta-analysis, and Trial Sequential Analysis to Inform Clinical Guidelines (American Journal of Therapeutics)

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment assessing the efficacy of ivermectin treatment in chemoprophylaxis, reducing mortality, and secondary outcomes. Researchers concluded that evidence suggests ivermectin reduced COVID-19 deaths in addition to preventing severe disease. Recommendations for the drug were based on moderate-certainty evidence, its high safety record, and low cost. 

The mechanisms of action of ivermectin against SARS-CoV-2 – an extensive review (The Journal of Antibiotics)

An extensive review of ivermectin mechanisms of action where researchers published results on the inhibition of multiple viral and host targets that possibly are involved in SARS-CoV-2 replication. The original paper recommends the repurposing of ivermectin to treat COVID-19, calling it a drug that is “worthy of attention.” The Editor-in-Chief of the journal retracted this article due to the researcher’s conclusions. None of the authors agreed to the retraction.

Potential use of ivermectin for the treatment and prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 infection (Current Research in Translational Medicine)

A narrative review of ivermectin focused on: a) short-term efficacy in COVID-19 treatment, b) long-term efficacy for patients with post-acute symptoms, c) efficacy in disease prevention, and d) ivermectin safety. Reviewed literature suggested that sufficient evidence exists concerning ivermectin safety, and the drug’s efficacy in early treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

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Ivermectin Mechanisms of Action

Ivermectin Mechanism of Action for COVID-19

Researchers Asiya Kamber Zaidi and Puya Dehgani-Mobaraki divide ivermectin activity into the following four groups:

A. Direct action on SARS-CoV-2

  • Level 1: SARS-CoV-2 cell entry
  • Level 2: Importin (IMP) superfamily
  • Level 3: Ionophore action

B. Action on host targets critical to viral replication

  • Level 4: Antiviral action
  • Level 5: Viral replication and assembly
  • Level 6: Posttranslational processing of viral polyproteins
  • Level 7: Karyopherin (KPNA/KPNB) receptors

C. Action on host targets critical to inflammation

  • Level 8: Interferon (INF) levels
  • Level 9: Toll-like receptors (TLRs)
  • Level 10: Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) pathway
  • Level 11: JAK-STAT pathway, PAI-1, that could be involved with COVID-19 sequelae
  • Level 12: P21 activated kinase 1 (PAK1)
  • Level 13: Interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels
  • Level 14: Allosteric modulation of P2X4 receptor
  • Level 15: High mobility group box 1 (HMGB1)
  • Level 16: Immunomodulator on lung tissue and olfaction
  • Level 17: Anti-inflammatory

D. Action on additional host targets

  • Level 18: Plasmin and annexin A2
  • Level 19: CD 147 on the red blood cell (RBC)
  • Level 20: Mitochondrial ATP under hypoxia on cardiac function

According to Zaidi and Dehgani-Mobaraki, the direct “antiviral targets” are useful in early-stage treatment, and anti-inflammatory targets can be helpful in later stages of COVID-19 disease.

Ivermectin Mechanism of Action as an Anti-Parasite Treatment

As an anti-parasite treatment, Ivermectin works by binding to glutamate-gated chloride channels in helminths and insects to interfere with their muscular and nervous system function. The binding action opens the channels, increases chloride ion flow, and hyper-polarizes cell membranes to paralyze and kill the invertebrate.

Ivermectin Dosage

Ivermectin is taken orally with 8 ounces or 240 milliliters of water on an empty stomach at least 60 minutes before a meal. Treatment dosage depends on weight, condition, and treatment response.

Ivermectin Side Effects

Ivermectin has a high safety record. Some side effects may include headache, dizziness, muscle pain, nausea, or diarrhea. Some patients experience reactions from dying parasites during the first days of treatment, including joint pain, eye swelling/redness/pain, tender/swollen lymph nodes, weakness, itching, rash, vision changes, and fever.

Ivermectin FAQ

Yes. Ivermectin was initially studied to treat animals however was approved for human use in 1987. In addition, it is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

Ivermectin is prescribed to treat lymphatic filariasis, SARS-COV-2, acariasis, scabies, river blindness/onchocerciasis, trichuriasis (whipworm, hookworm), heartworm, strongyloidiasis, and head lice.

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