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Professor Eli Schwarz is an Israeli tropical disease expert, who 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 the coronavirus. Professor Schwartz, founder of the Centre for Travel Medicine and Tropical disease, has completed a clinical trial of the FDA-approved ivermectin. – Jackie Cameron
Professor Eli Schwartz on his Ivermectin research:
We decided to go for Ivermectin, because as part of the tropical institute, we know the drug well. We know the safety profile of the drug and when Covid-19 started and there was some new data showing that in vitro, it’s highly effective against the coronavirus. So, we decided to go for it. Just to remind you, at that time, most of the world was running for the hydroxychloroquine as the saviour of the world. We decided to go for something else.
My decision was to go for the early stage of the disease, to see whether it’s can act a bit like a vaccine. That means if you give it at the early stage – it doesn’t matter if the patient is mild, ill or even asymptomatic – maybe you can shorten the, let’s call it the viremic phase, the phase of which the virus is shedding and contaminating the environment.
That can be a great advantage, because then it can break the transmission chain and it also may shorten the isolation period. To find a drug that within maybe a few days of treatment, you can be free of the virus is very valuable. The bottom line is that actually it’s really acting well. It’s shortened the viral shedding period. Therefore, if we are going to adopt it, people can be isolated for a shorter time. And therefore, we think that it really can help to break the transmission chain.
On their plan for the use of Ivermectin:
Our plan is to go to people at high-risk. That means people older than 50, with some risk factors like obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and to give to the drugs specifically to this group of the population, to see whether we can prevent hospitalisation. To give it at the early stage of the disease – when they’re still at home – to see whether the admission rate will diminish, if you compare it to the placebo.
On Ivermectin as a prophylaxis:
The other way to use it is as a prophylaxis. When I say prophylaxis, it means if you have somebody who was verified to have the disease and he has a family around him, you give it to the other family members immediately. This will allow [us] to see whether you really can reduce the number of new infections in this case. It can act, in a way, like a vaccine. I think that this is the importance of the disease. I know that around the world (in many places) the drug is given. However, without good evidence for it. I think governments – especially in the West – where they have more budget to use for it, we should continue and conduct properly done studies to show really the effectiveness of the drug.
On why we need the drug when there’s a vaccine:
If you think worldwide, the time it will take the entire world to get the vaccine will be a few years. There are millions of people who are going to wait a long time until they get the vaccine. The other thing is that the vaccine is still not registered for all populations. For example, kids cannot get it – and we are not sure when it will be approved for the children. Don’t forget that children are going to go back at school. If they are not vaccinated, it’s, kind of, a pool of the virus which can spread all over.
There are some people who, even if a vaccine is available, they cannot get it. So you’ll have a subpopulation who continue to shed the virus and infect each other. For example, to use this drug in schools, whenever you have one case in a classroom and you give it and prevent the spread of the disease is highly important. Not to forget – especially if we are talking to South Africa – with the variant – there are suspicions that the vaccine will not cover it properly.
This is the situation now. Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future. Do we have new mutations with more variability? Perhaps the vaccine will be less effective? I think to have an antiviral agent is highly important in so severe a disease. We hope we will not need it in the future. But for now, I think we urgently need and to continue to work on ivermectin.
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