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Ivermectin is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved antiparasitic drug that is used to treat several neglected tropical diseases, including onchocerciasis, helminthiases, and scabies.1 It is also being evaluated for its potential to reduce the rate of malaria transmission by killing mosquitoes that feed on treated humans and livestock.2 For these indications, ivermectin has been widely used and is generally well tolerated.1,3 Ivermectin is not approved by the FDA for the treatment of any viral infection.
Reports from in vitro studies suggest that ivermectin acts by inhibiting the host importin alpha/beta-1 nuclear transport proteins, which are part of a key intracellular transport process that viruses hijack to enhance infection by suppressing the host’s antiviral response.4,5 In addition, ivermectin docking may interfere with the attachment of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein to the human cell membrane.6 Ivermectin is thought to be a host-directed agent, which may be the basis for its broad-spectrum activity in vitro against the viruses that cause dengue, Zika, HIV, and yellow fever.4,7-9 Despite this in vitro activity, no clinical trials have reported a clinical benefit for ivermectin in patients with these viruses. Some studies of ivermectin have also reported potential anti-inflammatory properties, which have been postulated to be beneficial in people with COVID-19.10-12