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Emetine is not ipecac: considerations for its use as treatment for SARS-CoV2


Bleasel, MD and Peterson, GM, Emetine is not ipecac: considerations for its use as treatment for SARS-CoV2, Pharmaceuticals, 13, (12) Article 428. ISSN 1424-8247 (2020) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

DOI: doi:10.3390/ph13120428


Emetine is a potent antiviral that acts on many viruses in the low-nM range, with several studies in animals and humans demonstrating antiviral activity. Historically, emetine was used to treat patients with Spanish influenza, in the last stages of the pandemic in the early 1900s. Some of these patients were "black" with cyanosis. Emetine rapidly reversed the cyanosis and other symptoms of this disease in 1224 h. However, emetine also has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and it appears it is these anti-inflammatory properties that were responsible for the effects seen in patients with Spanish influenza. Emetine, in the past, has also been used in 10s to 100s of millions of people at a dose of ~60 mg daily to treat amoebiasis. Based on viral inhibition data we can calculate a likely SARS-CoV2 antiviral dose of ~1/10th the amoebiasis dose, which should dramatically reduce the risk of any side effects. While there are no anti-inflammatory dose response data available, based on the potential mode of action, the anti-inflammatory actions may also occur at low doses. This paper also examines the toxicity of emetine seen in clinical practice and that seen in the laboratory, and discusses the methods of administration aimed at reducing side effects if higher doses were found to be necessary. While emetine is a "pure drug" as it is extracted from ipecac, some of the differences between emetine and ipecac are also discussed.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:COVID-19, coronavirus, emetine, ipecac, dehydroemetine, treatment, re-purposing, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, toxicity
Research Division:Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
Research Group:Pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences
Research Field:Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Clinical health
Objective Field:Treatment of human diseases and conditions
UTAS Author:Bleasel, MD (Dr Martin Bleasel)
UTAS Author:Peterson, GM (Professor Gregory Peterson)
ID Code:141933
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:7
Deposited By:Pharmacy
Deposited On:2020-12-03
Last Modified:2022-08-26
Downloads:21 View Download Statistics

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