While most people are engaging in practices to help slow the spread of COVID-19, some individuals will still fall victim to this highly contagious virus. As health care professionals work tirelessly to determine the best treatment options for those who become critically ill, there are some rumors swirling around about products that can be used to ward off or self-treat the illness.
One such idea that made recent headlines is the use of ivermectin, commonly used to treat internal and external parasites in animals. There are ivermectin tablets that have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of parasitic worms and some external parasite conditions (such as head lice) in humans as well.
Ivermectin became linked to coronavirus because of an article published in the Antiviral Research Journal. This article described a study in which ivermectin was found to reduce the growth of the SARS CoV 2 virus in cell culture.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension agriculture educators Maria Jose Fuenzalida and Sandra Stuttgen, D.V.M., firmly warned against this theory in the fact sheet “Ivermectin products for animals are not intended for COVID-19 treatment.”
“There is no scientific proof about the safety and efficacy of ivermectin for treating COVID-19,” the pair wrote. They pointed out that this research was conducted on cells, not on animals or people.
A long list of side effects
They provided a list of side effects associated with human use of ivermectin intended for animals, including skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, and neurologic adverse events (dizziness, seizures, and confusion). A sudden drop in blood pressure, severe skin rash requiring hospitalization, and liver injury have also been reported, the authors said.
Fuenzalida and Stuttgen explained that in order for a new drug to be approved by FDA, multiple clinical trials need to be conducted to prove that the product is safe and effective for treating a specific condition. The FDA is expediting the approval process for COVID-19 treatments, but they said ivermectin is currently not part of that program.