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Researchers think this drug can prevent coronavirus infection – and it’s not a vaccine

Published Nov 5th, 2020 9:19PM EST
Coronavirus Treatment
Image: Vadim/Adobe

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  • Researchers from India think a drug can prevent the infection with the novel coronavirus after testing the medicine on healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 patients.
  • The drug is called ivermectin, and it appeared in previous research that showed the drug is effective against the coronavirus in lab testing.
  • The researchers say ivermectin can reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, but several limitations may have impacted the conclusions. More research is required to prove the drug can prevent or delay the infection.

Dr. Anthony Fauci explained a few days ago that the main goal for the first generation of coronavirus vaccines isn’t to block the infection but rather to prevent severe illness. If they do block infection, that would be an even better outcome. But doctors want to prevent severe illness and save lives with the help of these drugs.

There’s no telling whether vaccines will work, even though all of the frontrunners have shown great promise in lab tests and the previous stages of clinical trials. The scientific community isn’t placing all its bets on vaccine success, and there are plenty of studies looking at potential COVID-19 treatments, as well as meds that might reduce the risk of infection. Scientists from ll India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)-Bhubaneswar think they have a drug that can reduce the risks of infection, and it’s a substance we’ve heard of before.

Researchers ran in-vitro tests using ivermectin and found the drug to be effective at blocking SARS-CoV-2. They published their findings in early April, pointing out that research on actual patients will be required to determine whether the drug is really effective. Ivermectin is already a drug that’s approved around the world and can treat various illnesses caused by all sorts of pathogens, including head lice, scabies, and various worms. The drug has been used in other infectious diseases, including HIV, dengue fever, and Zika.

AIIMS-Bhubaneshwar researchers ran a study between September 20th and October 19th and concluded that two doses of ivermectin taken as prophylaxis resulted in a 73% reduction in COVID-19 infections in a study that raises some questions.

The doctors selected 372 healthcare workers for the study, half of which tested positive for COVID-19. They divided the patients into various groups, each group taking different prophylaxis including single-dose ivermectin (77 negative and 38 positive); vitamin C (38 negative and 29 positive); dual-dose ivermectin three days apart (94 participants, but 26 did not stick to the two-dose regimen); and hydroxychloroquine (12 negative and 6 positive). It’s unclear why hydroxychloroquine was included, a drug that various studies so far showed to be ineffective at blocking or treating COVID-19.

The scientists concluded that ivermectin could reduce the risk of transmission, whereas vitamin C and hydroxychloroquine had no effect. “Earlier, at least 20 to 25 [healthcare workers] were getting infected with the virus daily,” AIIMS Director Gitanjali Batmanabane said. “After the workers started taking ivermectin, the number of infection has come down to one or two per day.” But the researchers say that a single dose of ivermectin did not reduce infection rates.

The results seem promising at first sight, but some questions remain. This wasn’t a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study, the standard of clinical trials, but an observational one. A randomized trial that would compare ivermectin to standard care could better determine whether the drug has actual prophylaxis effects and whether it’s effective in COVID-19 therapy. After all, some of the patients who received the medicine in this trial were already infected with the coronavirus. The study has not been reviewed, and it’s available in pre-print form at this link.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.