Nigerian scientists brief FG on possible COVID-19 drug

A team of Nigerian professors and scientists has proposed the adoption of a drug, Ivermectin, as part of the uniform treatment guidelines of COVID-19 in the country and as prophylaxis, pending the rollout of vaccination programmes or alongside them.

The proposal is contained in the report of a research carried out by the team of scientists led by an Ophthalmologist and Surgeon, Professor Femi Babalola and the Chief Medical Director of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Professor Chris Bode.

In the report presented to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the team of researchers found out that Ivermectin inhibits viral entry into cells nucleus and guarantees direct suppression of viral RNA load of SARS CoV2.

The study revealed that safe doses of Ivermectin are useful in the treatment of patients with virology proven COVID-19 disease, lowering viral load, shortening time to negativity and causing improvement in clinical parameters when compared with Lopinavir/ Ritonavir/Placebo.

In particular, results showed that the days to which positive cases become negative reduced by 3.8 days overall, with a few patients turning negative by day two and 50 per cent by day five.

However, the study stressed that Ivermectin is not meant to replace other COVID-19 measures such as social distancing, face masking and hygiene, or vaccination.

The report titled: “A randomised controlled trial for the repurposing of Ivermectin in the management of COVID-19,” indicated that clinical trials of Ivermectin had been carried out in at least 21 countries worldwide, including Nigeria.

The research, carried out in LUTH, was undertaken following the report of a 5,000-fold reduction in viral load by Australian workers with in-vitro use of Ivermectin on COVID-19 in culture. Professor Babalola, who is the principal investigator, disclosed that the team had submitted the report on the usefulness of Ivermectin to the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has already appointed a peer review expert from the United Kingdom as well as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Other members of the group, named IVERCOVID Research Group, are the chairman of the Medical Advisory Council at LUTH, Professor Lanre Adeyemo; a United States-based Clinical Pharmacologist, Professor Adesuyi Ajayi; two project virologists, Professor S.A Omilabu and Dr Olumuyiwa Salu; and also the Project Coordinator, Dr Felix Alakaloko. Receiving the report, Vice-President Osinbajo welcomed efforts by the team in the fight against COVID-19.

In the statement by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, the vice president expressed excitement that Nigeria and Nigerians are at the cutting edge of scientific research into the COVID-19 treatment.

According to him, “we have an opportunity here and I am so fascinated to hear this drug has been used in the treatment of River Blindness in this country.”

While commending the efforts of the team, Osinbajo added that with the report, Nigeria is at an advantage both in knowledge and availability of the drug, especially since Ivermectin has been found useful not only in the treatment of COVID-19, but also as a prophylactic medication.

He disclosed that the Federal Government will explore further ways to support the research for the benefit of Nigerians and humanity generally, while also advancing the effective funding of scientific research in the country.

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