A wonder drug which a Donegal scientist was instrumental in developing will undergo a clinical trial to see how effective it is in the battle against Covid-19.
Ivermectin is commonly used by farmers to treat roundworm in cattle and sheep, but it is also used in the treatment of parasitic infections in humans, for example in the treatment of head lice.
Professor William Campbell (89), originally from Ramelton, in Co Donegal, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 2015 for his work in the development of the drug.
It has had a massive impact on world health, saving millions of people from diseases caused by parasites like river blindness in developing countries.
The drug will be at the centre of a new trial by French researchers to ascertain if it could be used in the fight against coronavirus, after promising results were recorded in an Australian lab.
Biochemistry expert Professor Luke O'Neill, of Trinity College in Dublin, told the Irish Independent: "It's added now to the list of possible approaches.
"But because it's been widely used in veterinary medicine and it has been used in humans, it's very safe, it is extremely cheap to make."
He said if it works, it would be freely available.
"The holy grail here is to get an anti-viral, a drug that will kill the virus, because that will have a massive effect, and that will be as important as a vaccine potentially."
He said Ivermectin has been shown to be safe so "you would be less concerned about side effects".
"It's another prospect, and we like it because we know it is safe in humans."
However, the expert said: "The anti-viral that we are most optimistic about is called Remdesivir. That is very specific against the virus."
Prof O'Neill pointed out there is "a massive effort" behind coming up with a treatment for Covid-19. "I think it will be faster than traditionally it would have been because of the pressing need for this," he said.
"The worry is that the vaccine will take ages to develop and there are no guarantees it will work. There is a risk it mightn't work. This would be a wonderful second plan B."
However, he stressed while Ivermectin might be lying around farmers' sheds, it must not be consumed by humans.
Prof O'Neill pointed out that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning in relation to this, because the veterinary dose would be far too high for humans.
The FDA said it was concerned about the health of consumers who may self-medicate by taking Ivermectin products intended for animals, thinking they can be a substitute for Ivermectin intended for humans.
"These animal drugs can cause serious harm in people," it warned.
Irish researchers have been working on the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Health Research Board previously announced it had mobilised rapid support for a Covid-19 clinical trial among Irish patients in intensive care units as part of global research efforts.
The trial will test interventions for Covid-19 in critically ill patients, capture the outcomes and analyse data across an international network in a global effort to reduce the impact of the coronavirus in intensive care settings.