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What Is Ivermectin? And Is It Safe For Humans?

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic people were desperate for answers, and within the desperation a lot of misinformation brewed. The President, during 2020, endorsed hydroxychloroquine, an anti-parasitic drug, that had no scientific basis for combating Covid-19. Yet, it was given emergency FDA approval for a time. Not long afterward, the theory was dispelled, and the approval was rescinded. A few weeks following this incidence, a few politicians pushed the use of an anti-malaria drug on hospitalized Covid-19 patients, despite only having very little evidence to prove its effectiveness. The FDA soon halted the anti-malaria drugs use. These two occurrences are evidence that science has often been ignored in the past two years in the face of Covid-19, for the sake of hope and random possibility. Amid the chaos, yet another theory sparked some major interest. People claimed that Ivermectin, an animal de-worming medication, could potentially kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or Covid-19. The basis of this theory were two major studies that came out saying that Ivermectin had killed the Covid-19 virus in a lab setting. Public figures endorsed the findings leading to hundreds, if not thousands, of people to buy animal-grade, over the counter Ivermectin. Shortly thereafter, more research came out claiming that Ivermectin not only does not affect the Covid-19 virus, but it can be toxic if taken in large enough quantities [1][8].

Ivermectin is a multi-faceted medication. It is used for heart worm disease prevention in small animals and used topically or in tablet form by larger animals, like cows or horses, to combat lice or to treat parasitic illnesses. In much smaller doses, human grade Ivermectin can be used topically to treat lice and treat rosacea flareups. Humans can be orally prescribed Ivermectin, in minuscule doses, to alleviate certain parasitic illnesses, like strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis. Human-grade Ivermectin cannot be bought over the counter but animal-grade can be. People flocked to feed stores and family supply stores to buy Ivermectin that is not safe for human consumption, especially when the dose was designed for a cow or horse [4][5].

Ivermectin has been used to treat lice, parasites and rosacea since 1975. So, when Caley et al. and Dr. Wagstaff at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery institute both preformed studies finding that Ivermectin could combat the Covid-19 virus in vitro, people were thrilled. Although these studies did not prove that Ivermectin could alleviate the Covid-19 virus within the human body, it was so enticing to hope that a medication that is widely assessable across the world could be a potential cure to Covid-19. In short, it was not true. Virginia Schmith et al. did a study in 2020 in response to Caley et al. findings. Schmith et al. claimed that Ivermectin, taken orally, cannot combat the Covid-19 virus. Caley et al.’s study was done in vitro, meaning it was performed on a few cells outside of the body. Schmith et al. wrote a study to determine whether this measure done in vitro could apply to the actual human body, in a safe and productive manner. Schmith et al. ultimately concluded that Ivermectin could not help alleviate the human body from the Covid-19 virus when given in doses that were safe for the human body. They even theorized that ten times the highest safe dose of Ivermectin for humans would not help combat Covid-19 in the body. Another study led by Dr. Wagstaff at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery institute found that Ivermectin could kill the Covid-19 virus in a matter of 48 hours. Yet again this study was also done in-vitro and does not prove that it would be effective in human bodies. Recently performed clinical trials confirms that Ivermectin does not actually affect the Covid-19 virus within the human body [1][2][4][8].

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all stop it,” the FDA implored, in a tweet, for the general public to stop the use of animal grade Ivermectin to treat Covid-19. Not only can animal grade Ivermectin be nine or ten times the dose a human can tolerate, but animal grade medication also contains inactive ingredients, for animals, that could be active in human bodies leading to dangerous effects. Meaning not only are the dosages of animal-grade Ivermectin poisonous, but the contents in animal-grade Ivermectin could be very harmful, as well. The over ingestion of Ivermectin in humans can lead to numerous negative effects such as a negative interaction with blood thinner medication, diarrhea, vomiting, confusion, swelling in limbs or face, dizziness, seizures, balance problems, low blood pressure, liver issues, coma, death, etc. In other words, humans can overdose on ivermectin [5][8][9].

After these aforementioned studies came out, several notable famous politician and public figures promoted the idea of using Ivermectin to combat Covid-19, despite the concept not being backed up by scientific evidence. This contributed to the surge of Ivermectin over-use. There is absolutely no scientific basis for ingesting Ivermectin to kill the Covid virus, yet in the days between July and August of 2021, after the misleading studies came out, there was a 245% increase in reported cases of Ivermectin poisoning across the US. In the months between January to the end of August there was an 163% increase in the number of Ivermectin-poison cases. During the time the false narrative about Ivermectin first started percolating, states like, Minnesota and Mississippi, were receiving poison control calls that were 70% related to ivermectin overuse, and 75% of those cases were done by people that were not prescribed ivermectin. The rest of the cases were by people who had been prescribed Ivermectin but had taken more than the recommended dose [5][8].

In response to this misunderstanding of evidence, or lack thereof, the FDA has formulated a task force to contest the fraudulent ideas around Ivermectin and other unsubstantiated theories surrounding the pandemic. Hopefully, people within the media will be much clearer in their presentation of conclusions that can be drawn from new research. In conclusion, Ivermectin should be not ingested for the purpose of preventing or curing Covid-19, but rather to treat lice, rosacea, or parasitic illnesses. Animal grade Ivermectin is not suitable for humans, especially the dosages of Ivermectin designed for large animals, like horse and cows. Ivermectin should only be taken by humans if it is prescribed by a doctor and only in the correct dosage [1][8].

The Pandemic is a stressful period of waiting and experiencing a lot of unknowns. It is understandable people are desperate for preventative measures. Luckily, masks and social distancing have been scientifically proven to reduce the likelihood of Covid-19 contraction. Additionally, the Covid-19 vaccine, Pfizer, has received the FDA’s full approval, along with Moderna and Johnson & Johnsons vaccines which have received emergency approval. Masks, social distancing, vaccines are all an effective and safe way of safeguarding the body from Covid-19, opposed to ingesting unsubstantiated substances like Ivermectin. Lastly, to help the immune system response against viruses, like Covid-19, it might also be beneficial to take supplements that increase key immune-related vitamins, like vitamin C, vitamin D, B vitamins, and Zinc [6][7].

In terms of treatment possibilities, there has not been an over-the-counter drug that has been found to be effective in treating Covid-19, but there are typical symptom-relieving medications you can get in a drug store, like ibuprofen and cough syrup. Only one drug has been found significant results, and been approved by the FDA, which is remedesivir, an antiviral drug. This drug is typically used in hospitals. There is another drug that has received emergency approval by the FDA, called Baricitinib, an anti-inflammatory drug, which has been used on critical Covid-19 patients in the hospital on ventilators. For people that have a mild to moderate case of Coivd-19 and for high-risk people that are trying to prevent contracting Covid-19, after being exposed, have benefitted from having an infusion of a combination of a few monoclonal antibody medications. These are known as sotrovimab, casirivmab, and imdevimab. The FDA has additionally approved of giving infusions of convalescent plasma, which is plasma extracted the blood of someone that has Covid-19 antibodies, to people that are just beginning to experience Covid-19 symptoms [6].

Someone who is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms should quarantine, away from friends, co-workers, family, and even pets. Even if there is unavoidable contact, the person experiencing symptoms should wear a mask around all people and pets. People with Covid-19 need to quarantine anywhere from 10 to 20 days, depending on whether the person with Covid-19 is continuing to test positive with a PCR test. Covid-19 symptoms might still be present even after a Covid-positive person has received a definitive negative test.

Author: Katrina P.

Editor: Sophia Galvez

Public Health Scientist: Aseelah Saiyed



1. Chiu, A. (2021, September 11). What is ivermectin, and how did people get the idea it

can treat covid? The Washington Post. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from

2. Monash University. (2021, August 18). Lab experiments show anti-parasitic drug,

ivermectin, eliminates SARS-COV-2 in cells in 48 hours. Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from,-Ivermectin,-eliminates-SARS-CoV-2-in-cells-in-48-hours.

3. Romo, V. (2021, September 4). Poison Control Centers are fielding a surge of ivermectin

overdose calls. NPR. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from

4. Schmith, V.D., Zhou, J. (J., & Lohmer, L. R. L. (2020). The approved does of ivermectin

alone is not the ideal dose for the treatment for COVI-19. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 108(4), 762-765.

5. Center for Veterinary Medicine. (2021). FAQ: Covid-19 and ivermectin intended for

animals. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from;-veterinary/product-safety-information/faq-covid-19-and-ivermectin-intended-animals

6. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Retrieved October 30, 2021,


treatment/drc20479976#:~:text=The%20FDA%20has%20approved%20the,19%20in %20some%20cases.

7. MedicineNet. (2021). 20 Vitamins and Supplements to Boost immune Health for Covid-

19. Retrieved October 31, 2021, from




8. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2020). Why you should not use ivermectin to treat or

prevent COVID-19. U.S. Food and Drug administration. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from

9. U.S. FDA. @U.S_FDA. (2021). You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all stop

it. [Tweet]. Twitter.

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