A prestigious global research institute based in France has published a preclinical study in EMBO Molecular Medicine revealing that ivermectin is associated with a reduction in COVID-19 symptoms. Yet even after dozens of studies showcasing such results in real-world scenarios, the World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to embrace the opportunity of the drug for low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). Institut Pasteur’s Jean-Pierre Changeux suggests the drug acts on the nicotinic receptor, leading to what undoubtedly will fuel an interesting debate on the topic. In a comprehensive preclinical study involving hamsters, the study team concluded that ivermectin represents a powerful immunomodulatory drug, implying that it could help the world in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The study results reveal that the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin prevents clinical deterioration, reduces olfactory deficit, and limits the inflammation of the upper and lower respiratory tracts in the study animals. The investigators recommend consideration of the drug as a means to combat COVID-19.
The Challenge & Opportunity
A devastating pandemic continues with emergent new variants and a growing death toll while vaccines, while effective and seemingly safe, are distributed in a way that could be considered anything but equitable. Low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) struggle to vaccinate even a fraction of the population as a market-based system directs product to the highest bidders.
Meanwhile, over 62 ivermectin studies (randomized controlled trials, observational and case series) have been conducted around the world with overwhelmingly positive outcomes. A few meta-analyses have added to the promising evidence yet regulatory authorities, apex research agencies, and global groups such as the World Health Organization (WHO) while monitoring the trends seek to act in ways to subvert the progress and potential for the generic repurposed drug. TrialSite has observed a directed, concerned, and orchestrated misinformation campaign against ivermectin that includes a prominent producer of the product, Merck. The American pharmaceutical company also was paid $356 million by the U.S. government to develop its own COVID-19 antiviral drug called Molnupiravir—and just months later, secured a $1.2 billion public procurement commitment. TrialSite suggests liberal government funding has led to a culture of public financial dependence during the pandemic, corrupting markets and outcomes.
TrialSite has been on record that WHO has failed its role as a global authority and allocator of funding and treatments to help member nations. If vaccination distribution is any measure, while the WHO blames the pharmaceutical companies, it was actually their responsibility for more equitable distribution. That hasn’t happened. Yet, WHO has in parallel resisted mounting evidence associated with ivermectin as a possible low-cost measure to help fight the pandemic.
Regardless of WHO’s disapproval of the drug, much success has been associated with ivermectin. TrialSite has chronicled study after study, from Bangladesh and Uttar Pradesh, India to Mexico City and even Broward County, Florida, where physicians and clinical investigators report on impactful results. TrialSite reported that because of WHO’s recalcitrant stance, a collection of lawyers out of Bombay announced a lawsuit against the WHO and its chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, accusing them of avoiding the mounting evidence in favor of the drug.
The Study Results
Now a prominent, globally focused, French, non-profit private foundation introduces compelling new information about ivermectin. The authors declare, “variants that jeopardize the efficacy of current vaccines create an urgent need for a comprehensive understanding of the pathophysiology of COVID-19, including the contribution of inflammation to disease..”
The authors summarized that the pandemic also necessitates a “search for immunomodulatory drugs that could improve disease outcome.” In a preclinical hamster study, the scientists at the Pasteur Institute showcased that the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin prevents clinical deterioration, reduces olfactory deficit, and limits the inflammation of the upper and lower respiratory tracts in SARS-CoV-2-infected hamsters.
The preclinical investigators in France reported that the drug didn’t affect viral load in the infected animals’ airways. Moreover, after conducting transcriptomic analyses of infected lungs, scientists there report that ivermectin dampens type 1 interferon responses while modulating a number of additional inflammatory pathways. Noteworthy, they reported that ivermectin “dramatically reduces the Il-6/Il-10 ratio in lung tissue and promotes macrophage M2 polarization, which might account for the more favorable clinical presentation of IVM-treated animals.”
The French scientists concluded, “This study supports the use of immunomodulatory drugs such as ivermectin, to improve the clinical condition of SARS-CoV-infected patients.”
Principal Investigator Point of View
The researchers were quoted in the French press commenting on the significant positive results yet declaring that the effects seem to be immunomodulatory rather than antiviral in nature, reported Guilherme Dias de Melo, an epidemiologist and study co-author. Corresponding author Hervé Bourhy considers these “results provide significant progress and […] pave the way for development…for better treatment against COVID-19 in humans.”
Founded in 1887, the Institut Pasteur has researched infectious diseases for over a century. This worldwide biomedical research organization based in Paris was the first to isolate HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in 1983. Over the years, it has been responsible for discoveries that have enabled medical science to control diseases from diphtheria and tetanus to tuberculosis and influenza to yellow fever and plague. Since 1908, ten Institut Pasteur scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology.
Herve Bourhy, Lyssavirus Epidemiology and Neuropathology Unit, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, Corresponding Author
Jean-Pierre Changeux, Neuroscience Department, Institut Pasteur, Collège de France, Paris, France
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