South Africa takes part in antiparasitic drug trial – to test a possible Covid-19 treatment

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  • A new Covid-19 drug trial will take place in South Africa.
  • The trial will test an antiparasitic drug called nitazoxanide on patients with mild Covid-19.
  • The drug is FDA approved for human consumption.

A new international Covid-19 treatment trial is set to start in South Africa, the University of London has announced.

Together with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the institution is leading the trial as part of the ground-breaking Covid-19 drug testing platform, AGILE. The organisations have partnered with two South African institutions, the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation at the University of Cape Town, and Ezintsha at the University of the Witwatersrand. 

The trial will be examining whether high doses of the antiparasitic drug nitazoxanide could help treat patients with Covid-19.

Nitazoxanide and Covid-19

A recent study found that nitazoxanide was safe and well-tolerated at 1 500mg twice daily for seven days with no significant adverse events for people infected with Covid-19. Thus AGILE has established that the drug is safe for human consumption, and it is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

The trial will consist of people who have a moderate or mild Covid-19 infection. The participants will be given 1 500mg of nitazoxanide twice a day for seven days and will be closely monitored. The levels of the virus present in their bodies will also be monitored. If scientists observe that the trial shows a benefit to patients, the treatment will be moved into a larger Phase II trial in South Africa.

The country’s arm of the trial hope that this will help towards affordable medication against Covid-19.

“This is a critical study in our resource-limited context; working towards an affordable oral treatment for Covid-19 where vaccine access remains limited is of the utmost importance,” said Dr Catherine Orrell, Principal Investigator at the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, in a press statement.

Dr Nomathemba Chandiwana, the  Principal Investigator at Ezintsha, echoes her sentiments.

“The repeated waves of the Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted the necessity for effective and accessible therapeutics for Covid-19 patients, especially in Africa where vaccine access is limited. That’s why I am excited to be part of the important collaborative study,” she said.

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