COVID-19: Antiparasitic Offers Treatment Hope

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

antiparasitic medication for COVID-19

Story at-a-glance -

  • Recent data show a single dose of Ivermectin, an antiparasitic medication used since 1981, could kill 99.8% of the virus in 48 hours
  • The drug was used with a single dose of Doxycycline, an antibiotic, in 60 patients with confirmed COVID-19; all recovered in four days
  • Researchers urge caution moving forward and warn people not to use drugs designed for veterinary use
  • You have options to help prevent illness, including making sure that you have healthy levels of vitamin D

Since the announcement from China in December 2019 that a novel coronavirus had been detected, scientists and researchers have been scrambling to learn more about it, how to prevent it and how to treat it. In the ensuing months a number of different treatment protocols have been proposed, some of which have demonstrated positive results.

Questions about privacy concerns, issues with unreasonable force by law enforcement across the world and sheltering in place are just some of the changes triggered by fear. The global population is effectively being manipulated while those who advocate for a “new normal” to reduce the spread of the virus wait for a vaccine to be produced.

To effectively maintain a plan for disease surveillance, the vaccine needs to be produced quickly and before an effective treatment is found. Yet, in a recently released CDC mathematical model using data gathered before April 29, 2020, their "best estimate" is that 0.4% of people in the general population who show symptoms will die.1

This is close to the number of people from the Diamond Princess who did die after being quarantined aboard the ship in Yokohama for 27 days. Of the 3,711 passengers and crew, researchers recorded 16.6% confirmed cases, 8.5% asymptomatic cases and 1.3% deaths.2

This number also matches estimates from the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine3 but not the fear-based changes being made across the world. In the U.S., physicians are reporting that they are being asked to add COVID-19 to death certificates,4 and Fox News reports the CDC guidelines say:5

"In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID cannot be made but is suspected or likely (e.g. the circumstances are compelling with a reasonable degree of certainty) it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as 'probable' or 'presumed.'"

Antiparasitic Reduces SARS-CoV-2 Replication in Cell Culture

A recent study generated excitement when researchers revealed that a single dose of Ivermectin could stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from replicating.6 Ivermectin is an antiparasitic medicine that is used globally, and which reduced the SARS-CoV-2 virus in cell culture by up to 93% in 24 hours and 99.8% in 48 hours.7

In their study, published in Antiviral Research,8 scientists wrote that a single dose resulted in an approximately 5,000-fold "reduction in virus at 48 h in cell culture." The collaborative study involved professionals from Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and the University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital.9

While they were unable to identify the mechanism of action against the virus, it has a clear history of antiviral activity against HIV-1 and dengue viruses.10

The drug is also effective against Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis, and is a "potent broad spectrum specific inhibitor of importin α/β-mediated nuclear transport [that] demonstrates antiviral activity against several RNA viruses by blocking the nuclear trafficking of viral proteins."11

The discovery of the drug earned Satoshi Omura the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.12 Ivermectin is a macrocyclic lactone that has been used in hundreds of millions of people13 and animals14 since it was introduced commercially in 1981.15

It has a well-documented safety profile, an established distribution chain around the world and is relatively inexpensive.

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Ivermectin Shows Promise in Human COVID-19 Infections

Kylie Wagstaff from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute talked about moving forward with its use, saying, "Ivermectin is very widely used and seen as a safe drug. We need to figure out now whether the dosage you can use it at in humans will be effective — that's the next step.”16

Dr. Tarek Alam, head of medicine at Bangladesh Medical College Hospital, released results after prescribing the drug with one dose of Doxycycline in 60 patients with confirmed COVID-19.

According to Alam, the combination stopped the infection in all the patients. He claimed that those who received the combination recovered within four days with no apparent side effects from the drugs:17

"We have got astounding results. Out of 60 COVID-19 patients, all recovered as the combination of the two drugs were applied. The repeated or second tests, in line with the procedure, reconfirmed them COVID-19 negative in all the cases under the research which found the combination to have no side effects on patients either.” 

Alam is confident in the results and hopeful this will provide a successful treatment protocol.18 At this time he's finalizing a report to be published in an international journal. Human clinical trials are now under way in several global areas including Egypt, Iraq, Spain and Argentina, as well as at the University of Kentucky and Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.

Officials in Trinidad were so excited by the results they began a campaign to give out one free dose of Ivermectin by going door-to-door.19 Trinidad's Health minister, however, noted that there is no current scientific validation to treat coronavirus and asked physicians using Ivermectin to ensure informed consent.

Researcher Urges Caution

Leon Caly from the Royal Melbourne Hospital was a lead researcher on the collaborative cellular study. The publication of the data prompted two letters to the editor in the same journal.20 The authors of the letters pointed out blood levels of Ivermectin used during standard treatment were lower than the concentration used in cell cultures to inhibit replication of the virus.

The author of the original study responded, saying both writers made valid points about the data and that he and his team were in agreement. However, the writers of the letters did not highlight the reason caution should be considered when using Ivermectin. He explained that it is a host-directed agent (HDA) and:

“The way a HDA can reduce viral load is by inhibiting a key cellular process that the virus hijacks to enhance infection by suppressing the host antiviral response. Reducing viral load by even a modest amount by using a HDA at low dose early in infection can be the key to enabling the body’s immune system to begin to mount the full antiviral response before the infection takes control.

However, it is important to urge great caution in approaching the use of ivermectin in this simplistic way, precisely because ivermectin is a HDA. Because it targets a host component, it cannot be assumed that even doses lower than those discussed by Yeo et al. (2020) and Noel (2020) are safe in the context of a burgeoning viral infection, where a measured immune response is key to recovery.

Finally, it is critically important to remember that ivermectin as an antiviral is in a very early phase — under no circumstances should self-medication be considered without the guidance of a qualified physician, and especially not using therapeutics designed for veterinary purposes!”

Don’t Take Animal Medications

After some physicians found using hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine produced results, one Arizona man died, and his wife was hospitalized when they used a form of chloroquine commonly found to clean aquarium fish tanks.21

Recognizing that information about potential treatments is being published quickly and digitally, the FDA made a statement warning people not to use veterinary medicine Ivermectin intended for animals:22

“FDA is concerned about the health of consumers who may self-medicate by taking ivermectin products intended for animals, thinking they can be a substitute for ivermectin intended for humans. People should never take animal drugs, as the FDA has only evaluated their safety and effectiveness in the particular animal species for which they are labeled.”

Federal agencies, researchers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to gain a foothold in the COVID-19 prevention and treatment market. In response the FDA has created a task force to monitor fraudulent activity.23

Vitamin D Directly Related to COVID-19 Outcome

A groundbreaking study was announced in April to investigate the effectiveness of vitamin D against COVID-19.24 Just days later, Mark Alipio — who received no funding for his work — published a preprint letter releasing data from an analysis of 212 people with lab-confirmed COVID-19 and for whom there were serum 25(0H)D levels available.25,26

Using statistical analyses, he compared the difference in clinical outcomes against the levels of vitamin D and found vitamin D levels were strongly correlated to the severity of disease. Alipio concluded:27

"… this study provides substantial information to clinicians and health policy-makers. Vitamin D supplementation could possibly improve clinical outcomes of patients infected with Covid-2019 based on increasing odds ratio of having a mild outcome when serum (OH)D level increases. Further research may conduct randomized controlled trials and large population studies to evaluate this recommendation."

Using a different metric, writers of a recent editorial in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics arrived at similar results.28 They argued there was a marked variation in mortality that occurs above or below 35 degrees North latitude. This is also the line above which it's not possible for people to get enough sunlight to retain vitamin D during the winter months.

The writers stressed the importance of vitamin D on the outcome of infection and concluded that, while there is modest evidence, it does offer some protection against infection.

It is important to know your vitamin D levels as you consider how much supplementation you may need. Since individual dosages will vary widely, it's impossible to predict how much supplementation you might need until your blood level is measured. Typical supplement ranges are from 2,000 to 10,000 units per day, but there are many variables that contribute to this dose.

Ideally, you’d like the level to be 60 ng/ml. GrassrootsHealth makes testing easy by offering an inexpensive vitamin D testing kit as part of its consumer sponsored research. All revenue from these kits go directly to GrassrootsHealth. I make no profit from these kits and only provide them as a service of convenience to my readers.

What Can You Do at Home?

While some scientists and pharmaceutical companies endeavor to create the first vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, there are tactics you can use at home that may help prevent the illness or reduce the severity if you do contract it. Before thinking about taking the first vaccine — or even the next ones — find out more about the history of fast-tracked vaccines in “Fast-Tracked COVID-19 Vaccine — What Could Go Wrong?

Supporting your overall health and immune system goes a long way to helping prevent infection and reducing the severity of illness if you do get infected. In addition to ensuring adequate levels of vitamin D, there are several more steps you can take, which I have explored in depth and to which you’ll find links on the Coronavirus Resource Page. Here are some things you can do:

Pay close attention to your hand-washing techniques

Address diabetes and hypertension (two health conditions that increase risk of illness severity)

Support your immunity with nutrients

Combine quercetin and zinc if you choose to supplement

Make sure you get enough vitamin C

Get adequate amounts of sunshine

Get plenty of quality sleep

Support your immune system with exercise

Stay hydrated

Consider pre-, pro- and sporebiotics