Repositioning Ivermectin for Covid-19 treatment: Molecular mechanisms of action against SARS-CoV-2 replication

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2022 Feb 1;1868(2):166294. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2021.166294. Epub 2021 Oct 20.


Ivermectin (IVM) is an FDA approved macrocyclic lactone compound traditionally used to treat parasitic infestations and has shown to have antiviral potential from previous in-vitro studies. Currently, IVM is commercially available as a veterinary drug but have also been applied in humans to treat onchocerciasis (river blindness - a parasitic worm infection) and strongyloidiasis (a roundworm/nematode infection). In light of the recent pandemic, the repurposing of IVM to combat SARS-CoV-2 has acquired significant attention. Recently, IVM has been proven effective in numerous in-silico and molecular biology experiments against the infection in mammalian cells and human cohort studies. One promising study had reported a marked reduction of 93% of released virion and 99.98% unreleased virion levels upon administration of IVM to Vero-hSLAM cells. IVM's mode of action centres around the inhibition of the cytoplasmic-nuclear shuttling of viral proteins by disrupting the Importin heterodimer complex (IMPα/β1) and downregulating STAT3, thereby effectively reducing the cytokine storm. Furthermore, the ability of IVM to block the active sites of viral 3CLpro and S protein, disrupts important machinery such as viral replication and attachment. This review compiles all the molecular evidence to date, in review of the antiviral characteristics exhibited by IVM. Thereafter, we discuss IVM's mechanism and highlight the clinical advantages that could potentially contribute towards disabling the viral replication of SARS-CoV-2. In summary, the collective review of recent efforts suggests that IVM has a prophylactic effect and would be a strong candidate for clinical trials to treat SARS-CoV-2.

Keywords: Antiviral; Cytokine storm; Drug repurposing; Importin heterodimer complex; Inhibition; STAT3; Streptomyces avermitilis; Treatment; Viral 3CLpro.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiparasitic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiparasitic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • COVID-19 / drug therapy*
  • COVID-19 / metabolism
  • Cytokine Release Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Cytokine Release Syndrome / metabolism
  • Drug Repositioning*
  • Humans
  • Ivermectin / pharmacology
  • Ivermectin / therapeutic use*
  • Karyopherins / metabolism
  • SARS-CoV-2 / drug effects*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology
  • Virus Replication / drug effects*


  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Karyopherins
  • Ivermectin