© REUTERSIvermectin
An Israeli tropical-disease expert says he has new proof that a drug used to fight parasites in third-world countries could help reduce the length of infection for people who contract coronavirus.

Prof. Eli Schwartz, founder of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Disease at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, last week completed a clinical trial of the US Food and Drug Administration-approved drug ivermectin, a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent that has also been shown to fight viruses.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 100 people with mild to moderate cases of the disease who were not hospitalized for the virus. It tested whether ivermectin could shorten the viral shedding period, allowing them to test negative for coronavirus and leave isolation in only a few days.

According to his still unpublished data, Schwartz said the drug was shown to help "cure" people of the virus within just six days. Moreover, the chances of testing negative for coronavirus were three times higher for the group who received ivermectin than the placebo, he told The Jerusalem Post.

"From a public-health point of view, the majority of patients with corona are mild cases, and 90% of these people are isolated outside of the hospital," Schwartz said. "If you have any kind of drug that can shorten the duration of the infectiousness of these patients, that would be dramatic, as then they will not infect others."

Moreover, instead of isolating for a minimum of 10 days and maybe more, this period could be shortened, benefiting the economy.

Finally, although Schwartz's study did not focus on this, he said the results indicate that it is likely if the drug were given at the beginning of one's illness, it could prevent deterioration and hospitalization.

Schwartz is currently preparing the data from his study for publication. On Monday, he is scheduled to present his findings to the Health Ministry and will also submit a report to the FDA.

Since April, there have been many trials and analyses suggesting the effectiveness of ivermectin against the novel coronavirus. But only a handful have been conducted effectively as double-blind, placebo-controlled tests such as Schwartz's.

"There is insufficient data for the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19," the US National Institutes of Health said in a statement last Thursday. "Results from adequately powered, well-designed, and well-conducted clinical trials are needed to provide more specific, evidence-based guidance on the role of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19."

However, NIH did verify that for other indications, "ivermectin has been widely used and is generally well tolerated."

"Ivermectin is a chemical therapeutic agent, and it has significant risks associated with it," Hebrew University of Jerusalem Prof. Ya'acov Nahmias told the Post.

"We should be very cautious about using this type of medication to treat a viral disease that the vast majority of the public is going to recover from even without this treatment," he said.

When Israel launched its mass vaccination campaign, there were many who believed there would no longer be a need for medication, Schwartz said.

"Now we know that this was an illusion," he said. "Even in Israel, not everyone is taking the vaccine. There is quite a big population of youngsters under the age of 16 for whom it will be at least months until we have a vaccine for them. And if you look worldwide, vaccinating everyone will take a few years."

Because ivermectin is FDA-approved, its safety does not have to be proven, Schwartz said. Rather, approval just needs to be received for its use in this new indication, he said.

Schwartz said he hopes the new study will "be a cornerstone to get this permission."

"The numbers are not high, but they are convincing enough that they should open the gates for more studies and for its prelimin