• Covid-19, researchers are looking at an anti-parasitic drug. Originally a discovery of the Milan unit of CNR

IBF, the Biophysics Institute had patented its use an antiviral drug in 2009. Australian researchers are focusing their efforts on it

Coronavirus, contagions, deaths: it is hard to predict when we will overcome this health crisis. What is clear is that only a vaccine or an effective drug will put an end to it. And scientists around the world are engaged in an unprecedented race against time towards this goal.

In early April, a group of Australian researchers published a study in the scientific journal Antiviral Research showing that a drug (Ivermectin) has the ability to eliminate Covid-19 within 48 hours of infecting human cells.

Ivermectin is a well-known anti-parasitic drug that is used in the treatment of some serious tropical diseases. Its potential use as an antiviral drug was discovered and first patented in 2009 by a group of Italian researchers, led by Eloise Mastrangelo and Mario Milani, from the Biophysics Institute (IBF) which is part of Milan unit of the Italian National Research Council CNR.

The breakthrough was achieved after a lengthy, thorough computational and experimental study on viral proteins that are essential for virus replication in the host cell. These research efforts benefited from collaborations with renowned European virological laboratories.

Despite the international interest raised by the discovery, the Italian research group did not obtain new funding to pursue the patent further and continue researching Ivermectin.

Meanwhile, the international scientific community has taken an interest in the remarkable antiviral properties of this natural molecule and found that it is capable of inhibiting other viruses, such as the recently emerged Zika virus, influenza, HIV.

The drug is currently in two clinical trials against the Dengue virus (clinicaltrials.gov), and could well be a new weapon against the Coronavirus. Obviously enough, further research is needed first: the study published in Antiviral Research is only a first step, and others will be needed to ensure, for example, that it can be used safely against Covid-19 in humans.

Meanwhile, IBF has started a collaboration with the International Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in Trieste, testing the molecules characterised by IBF researchers in the laboratories of the Milan unit of CNR directly on Covid-19.
go to top