A tropical disease expert is testing a drug used to fight parasites in third-world countries that he said could help reduce the length of infection for people who catch coronavirus, enabling them to go back to work and life in as little as a few days.
Prof. Eli Schwartz, founder of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Disease at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, recently launched a clinical trial of the drug Ivermectin, a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent that has also been shown to fight viruses. He believes the drug could help “cure” COVID-19.
“At the onset of this virus, everyone was talking about the anti-malaria drug,” he said, referring to hydroxychloroquine, which was first touted by US President Donald Trump, but has since been linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, among other health risks.
“We decided to look more widely for other medications and considered a few drugs that might have antiviral activity,” he said; Ivermectin was selected.
Schwartz told The Jerusalem Post that the drug is being tested in people with mild to moderate cases of the disease to see if it can shorten the viral shedding period, allowing them to test negative for coronavirus and leave isolation in only a few days. Currently, people who become infected with corona are in isolation for at least two weeks – and sometimes four or even six weeks – before they get two negative test results.
“From a public health point of view, this is very important,” he said, explaining that if people are cured of coronavirus, they can go back to work and their normal daily activity, causing less negative impact on the economy.
So far, 26 people have enrolled in the doctor’s randomized, parallel assignment, double-blind quadruple mask study out of the 100 patients he hopes to recruit. He finds most of his recruits at state-run “coronavirus hotels.”
So far, he and his team hope to establish viral clearance within six days post-intervention.
Schwartz is also monitoring whether the drug can help speed up the reduction of symptoms.
A team of Australian researchers conducted a study of the drug in March and found that it was capable of killing COVID-19 within 48 hours in a cell culture. Schwartz’s study would be the first trial carried out in humans.
Preliminary results of a US study of Ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms showed that it may reduce mortality as well, though Schwartz said he is not focusing his effort on the small percentage of patients who end up in the hospital.
As of Monday morning, some 2,665 coronavirus patients in Israel were being treated at home or in a hotel, versus 132 in the hospital.
A team of researchers won a 2015 Nobel Prize for the discovery of Ivermectin, which was found to effectively kill parasite larvae. As such, millions of people have been treated with the drug, which is known to have a high safety profile.
Schwartz said that many physicians are not familiar with Ivermectin because it is unique to tropical medicine.
He told the Post that the study is just getting underway because of bureaucratic delays by the Health Ministry. But he said he hopes that the study will be completed within the next few months, assuming enough people enroll. He mentioned that there has been a decline in people signing up to take part in the study.
“The majority of people who get positive results have to be out of life,” he said. “If [Ivermectin] works, they could take medication for a few days instead and be cured.”
Monday, June 15, 2020
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