Ivermectin Research: Life-Saving Covid Drug or Myth?

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, heated discussions erupted around the antiparasitic drug ivermectin. It was discovered back in 1975 and has become a valuable achievement in treating many infectious diseases. William Campbell and Satoshi Omura received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of ivermectin. Currently, in some countries of the world, ivermectin is used for the treatment of not only parasitic infestations but also for the treatment of viral diseases. A number of experts claim that it shows stunning results in the treatment of Covid-19 and even see it as an alternative to vaccination. But is ivermectin really effective in treating or preventing viral infections? People around the world began to take the drug to protect themselves from the virus because new studies have allegedly shown its effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2. It is also cheap, widely available, and has mild side effects.

Medical authorities in the US, Britain, and the EU claim there is insufficient evidence for the effectiveness of ivermectin in treating Covid-19, but its advocates, including many ideological anti-vaccinationists, continue to defend their opinion. We will review several studies and try to clarify whether the widely discussed drug might be effective against Covid-19.

Encouraging early-stage research

In October 2020, Egyptian scientists from Benha University published a study on the efficacy and safety of ivermectin for the treatment and prevention of Covid-19. The study included 600 participants, among which 400 symptomatic patients had a confirmed diagnosis. Another 200 were in contact with infected people at home. Symptomatic patients included both those with severe cases and those who had mild to moderate symptoms.

All participants were divided into 6 groups of 100 participants each. The first group included people with mild to moderate forms of Covid-19. They took ivermectin for four days along with the standard set of medications (vitamins, antibiotics, and other drugs recommended during the treatment). Another group with mild to moderate symptoms also received standard treatment, but instead of ivermectin got hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug controversially touted as a cure for Covid-19. The third and fourth groups included people with severe disease who also received standard care and ivermectin/hydroxychloroquine, respectively. Participants from the fifth and sixth groups were in contact with the infected at home. Both groups used personal protective equipment, but the fifth group additionally received ivermectin.

The study has shown that in all groups where participants took ivermectin, patients recovered faster and died less (groups 1–4), and were also less likely infected through contact with patients (groups 5–6). The results were astonishing given the average age of participants (55–59 years). In mild/moderate cases, ivermectin groups showed 99% improvement with no deaths (in the hydroxychloroquine group, 74% improved and 4% died, respectively). In severe cases, the ivermectin group showed 94% improvement and 2% deaths, compared to the hydroxychloroquine group with 50% and 20%. Only 2% in ivermectin group 5 were infected after contact with patients at home, while 10% got Covid-19 in hydroxychloroquine group 6.

The low cost, availability, and safety of ivermectin are also noted by researchers who speak in favor of using the drug to control the pandemic. It has served mankind for forty years and is available all over the world. It can be found at a regular drugstore, clinic, or hospital, as well as purchased online at one of the trusted online pharmacies.

Should be used in the treatment and prevention

In November 2020, an international group of ten scientists led by Pierre Kory published a study on the efficacy of ivermectin in the prevention and treatment of Covid-19. The authors reached a consensus that ivermectin should be used in the treatment and prevention of the disease due to its strong anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Scientists analyzed dozens of existing studies and concluded that the drug inhibits the replication of many viruses including SARS-CoV-2. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it prevents the development of a cytokine storm, an aggressive immune response of the body to a viral infection and drugs, which leads to systemic inflammation and disruption of the proper functioning of the immune system. The main danger of a cytokine storm in Covid-19 is an immune deficiency, as it facilitates the attachment of bacterial infections.

The inflammatory process and systemic tissue damage can lead to disruption of the internal organs and even death. According to the scientists’ findings, ivermectin also prevents infection through contact with others, accelerates recovery in patients with mild to moderate symptoms, and reduces mortality in hospitalized patients. Moreover, the medicine has no equals in terms of availability and safety. Referring to 94 studies, the authors argue that the use of ivermectin, along with masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, taking zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and other drugs that have been shown to be effective, can make a huge contribution to pandemic control.

In August 2021, British scientists published a study in which they analyzed 24 randomized controlled trials including a total of 3400 participants. They assessed the results and quality of the studies, the reliability of the findings, and the possibility of bias. According to their conclusion, there is moderate-certainty evidence that ivermectin is effective in the early stages of the disease, and can also reduce the number of deaths from Covid-19.

Effectiveness yet to be proven

Doctors around the world claim that the prevention and early treatment of Covid-19 with low-cost repurposed drugs could save thousands of lives. Ivermectin is one of such repurposed drugs. According to a number of experts, it prevents infection and replication of SARS-CoV-2 viruses, protects organs, speeds up recovery, and reduces mortality. However, organizations such as the WHO warns the public that the existing studies in favor of ivermectin usage were limited and had some drawbacks. Particularly, the FDA warns that it is dangerous to use drug formulations made for animals. Although human ivermectin does not have serious side effects at the correct dosage, the very sense of security can be a threat. Until there are more reliable and comprehensive studies on the effectiveness of ivermectin against the disease, it is highly recommended not to neglect other protection measures.

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