ST. LOUIS – The drug ivermectin has become a lightning rod in 2021 in the nation’s fight against COVID-19. Simply saying its name in public is enough to beget harsh responses. People vociferously defend its use as a COVID cure or treatment despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, citing unproven or retracted studies. But falling for dubious claims or suspect studies is not exclusive to one group of people.
Over the last few days, people have shared memes and posts claiming ivermectin causes sterility in men. These claims are based on a study published in 2011 out of Nigeria. According to the authors of the study, 85% of male patients treated for river blindness suffered from low sperm counts and “poor sperm morphologies.”
Snopes and IFLScience examined those claims and are raising doubts about their veracity. Both Snopes and IFLScience correctly point out that the study was published in the online journal Scholars Research Library. While the journal claims to be peer-reviewed, it “bears some hallmarks of a ‘predatory journal,’ which is a place that will publish anything that is submitted — for a fee” and does not conform to proper academic standards for scientific research publishing, according to IFLScience. The website also contains spelling errors and other typos that would not be seen on more notable or trustworthy research journals.
The 2011 study lacks a control group and does not include a section documenting its own limitations, which are hallmarks of valid research papers.
Ivermectin is an antiparasitic discovered and developed by drug manufacturer Merck. It’s been in widespread use for decades. For humans, the drug is a treatment for some parasitic worms, as well as head lice, scabies, river blindness, and rosacea. It’s also used to treat parasites in livestock.
Taking ivermectin to treat COVID-19—in particular, the veterinary version of the drug—can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, delirium, and result in death.