The findings of a collaborative study led by the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and the Doherty Institute went viral on Saturday as a familiar drug stops coronavirus from growing in cell culture.

Ivermectin, a popular treatment for head lice and scabies, has beeen found to kill the virus in vitro in 48 hours. The next step is to determine whether the it can effectively treat coronavirus in humans, and at what dosage that would be safe.

Available as a pill, lotion and shampoo, Invermectin has Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute researcher Kylie Wagstaff’s team, feel “cautiously optimistic”.

“What we’ve shown is that using the drug Ivermectin we can stop the virus that causes COVID-19 growing in cells in a Petri dish,” she said.

“What we need to figure out now is whether those safe dosages that we know work in people are also effective on the virus.”

Although the mechanism by which Ivermectin works on the virus is not known, it is likely, based on its action in other viruses, that it works to stop the virus “dampening down” the host cells’ ability to clear it, Dr Wagstaff added.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos praised the work of the researchers involved in the study, while she urged people not to misuse the substance.

“There is no reason to be buying lice treatment unless you’re going to be using it on your children’s hair,” Ms Mikakos pointed out during a press conference updating Victorians on the coronavirus pandemic.

“I just want to stress that because we’ve heard about people overseas who have heard about potential developments and then have ingested drugs that have been used in a completely inappropriate way and have died as a result.

“I don’t want to see people rushing out to their pharmacies or their supermarkets buying lice treatments now because scientists are doing this work.

“It is lethal to swallow this shampoo. We will end up with people in hospital.”

Ms Mikakos closing, expressed her concern that people might hoard the drug, leaving none for patients who needed it for proven uses — something which had happened with other medications.

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