The University of Oxford are trialling the anti-parasitic drug, Ivermectin, as a possible treatment for Covid-19.

The trial is part of a government-backed study, known as Principle, that aims to develop Covid recovery methods in non-hospital settings.

Further reading: Covid-19 news, case studies and articles

According to statement from the university, preliminary laboratory studies have shown that the use of Ivermectin resulted in a reduction of virus replication. Furthermore, the researchers found that administering the drug early on may reduce the viral load and duration of symptoms in patients with mild Covid-19 symptoms.

However, principle joint chief investigator Prof Richard Hobbs said that although there have been some early, promising results, it would be “premature” to recommend the drug for prevention or treatment of Covid-19.

WHO and EMA have advised against the use of the drug outside of trials 

Ivermectin is most commonly used to treat parasitic infections in livestock and humans. For this reason, the drug is frequently administered in parts of the world where there are high incidences of parasitic infections.

Experts warn that Covid patients who are also fighting a parasitic disease would be likely to suffer from worse outcomes, which may explain the seemingly positive effects of the drug.

Currently, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have warned against the use of the drug outside of clinical trials due to a lack of evidence.

Despite this advice, Ivermectin is being used to treat Covid patients in countries such as India and South Africa. In South Africa, the drug was approved for use on compassionate grounds in a controlled-access programme. However, health authorities around the globe have reported widespread use of the drug on the black market.

Who is eligible for the trial?

Anyone aged 65 and over who has Covid symptoms or a positive test result can sign up to the Principle study. Those aged 18-64 with an underlying health condition or experiencing breathlessness are also eligible.

Chris Butler, a professor of medicine at the University of Oxford and one of the study’s lead authors, said: “By including ivermectin in a large-scale trial like Principle, we hope to generate robust evidence to determine how effective the treatment is against Covid-19, and whether there are benefits or harms associated with its use."