DUBLIN — The little-known drug thapsigargin has proven “highly effective” against Covid-19, according to a University of Nottingham research team, which said the findings are “hugely significant.”

The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Viruses, found that the plant-derived antiviral “triggers a highly effective broad-spectrum host-centred antiviral innate immune response against three major types of human respiratory viruses,” including the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

Though “more testing is clearly needed,” according to research team leader Professor Kin-Chow Chang, “current findings strongly indicate that thapsigargin and its derivatives are promising antiviral treatments against Covid-19 and influenza virus.”

Several treatments for virus-induced disease have been deployed since the first wave of the pandemic, including the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody cocktail developed by the company Regeneron, which was used on former US president Donald Trump when he was hospitalized in October.

Health officials and doctors have also recommended increased intake of vitamin D as a preventive.

Several Covid-19 vaccines have been produced, at record-breaking speed, with jabs developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca among those approved for use in Western countries.

Over 100 million doses had been adminstered worldwide by January 1, according to data put together by the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data. Roll-out speeds have varied widely, with around 70 per cent of all the vaccines administered in four countries – Britain, China, Israel and the US – and with Germany and France among several countries prohibiting over-65s from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.

On Tuesday, the Russian Sputnik V vaccine was reported to have shown over 90-per-cent efficacy in late-stage trials involving symptomatic cases, according to research published in The Lancet, a British medical journal.

The pandemic, which has killed over 2.2 million people and forced dozens of countries into debilitating lockdowns, “highlights the need for effective antivirals to treat active infections, as well as vaccines,” said Chang.

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