Niclosamide is an FDA approved drug that has been found to be effective against the Zika virus. But, you can’t legally get a prescription for it. Read on to find out why.
What is Zika?
Zika is a virus first isolated in Uganda and is related to dengue, yellow fever & West Nile. As viruses go, it is relatively benign with minor or no symptoms at all. There are no vaccines and approved treatments, so rest and time are currently the only options for treatment. 1
The virus does have one very undesirable consequence though. If contracted by pregnant women it can result in babies being born with microcephaly 2 or literally, a small head. What is particularly nasty is that the risk of birth defects is generally associated with the first trimester, decreasing as the pregnancy progresses. This is not the case with Zika which can have devastating consequences even into the third trimester. 3
What Is Niclosamide?
Niclosamide is a drug that was originally developed to treat people afflicted by parasitic worms, in particular, cestodes or tapeworms. Interestingly, this drug appears to have great promise in the treatment of MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococus aureus) as well being a potential anti-Zika drug.
Anti-tapeworm drug and possible MRSA and Zika virus treatment.
Why Can’t I Buy It?
The problem is that niclosamide has only been tested in vitro (“in the test tube or lab”) and not in vivo (“in a living thing, such as a human“). While the original trials that were conducted may have established its safety as regards to pregnancy, its effectiveness against Zika under these conditions has not. The drug may not cause harm but it might not make a difference since the infection is very short lived. 4
What to do in the Meantime?
The best solution is preventative which means a vaccine but that could take years. The simplest method in the interim is to avoid areas with known outbreaks of Zika or places with mosquito breeding seasons especially if there is a pregnancy planned or in progress. Bring plenty of bug spray the next you head out to a warm climate.
1) Wikipedia: Niclosamide.
2) CDC: Microcephaly
3) The Atlantic;The Danger of a Third-Trimester Zika Infection.
4) Amesh Adalja, MD: Repurposing drugs.