List of unproven methods against COVID-19

Last updated

There are many fake or unproven medical products and methods that claim to diagnose, prevent or cure COVID-19. [1] Fake medicines sold for COVID-19 may not contain the ingredients they claim to contain, and may even contain harmful ingredients. [2] [1] [3] In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement recommending against taking any medicines in an attempt to treat or cure COVID-19, although research on potential treatment was underway, including the Solidarity trial spearheaded by WHO. [4] The WHO requested member countries to immediately notify them if any fake medicines or other falsified products were discovered. [4] There are also many claims that existing products help against COVID-19, which are spread through rumors online rather than conventional advertising.

Contents

Anxiety about COVID-19 makes people more willing to "try anything" that might give them a sense of control of the situation, making them easy targets for scams. [5] Many false claims about measures against COVID-19 have circulated widely on social media, but some have been circulated by text, on YouTube, and even in some mainstream media. Officials advised that before forwarding information, people should think carefully and look it up. Misinformation messages may use scare tactics or other high-pressure rhetoric, claim to have all the facts while others do not, and jump to unusual conclusions. The public was advised to check the information source's source, looking on official websites; some messages have falsely claimed to be from official bodies like UNICEF and government agencies. [5] [6] [7] [8] Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University's medical school, had simpler advice for COVID-19 products: "Anything online, ignore it". [5]

Products which claim to prevent COVID-19 risk giving dangerous false confidence and increasing infection rates. [9] Going out to buy such products may encourage people to break stay-at-home orders, reducing social distancing.[ citation needed ] Some of the pretend treatments are also poisonous; hundreds of people have died from using fake COVID-19 treatments. [10]

Diagnosis

Medically-approved tests detect either the virus or the antibodies the body makes to fight it off. Government health departments and healthcare providers provide tests to the public. [11] There have been fraudsters offering fake tests; some have offered tests in exchange for money, but others have said the test is free in order to collect information that could later be used for identity theft or medical insurance fraud. Some fraudsters have claimed to be local government health authorities. People have been advised to contact their doctor or genuine local government health authorities for information about getting tested. Fake tests have been offered on social media platforms, by e-mail, and by phone. [12]

There are no antibody COVID-19 kits for home use available in the UK, as of the third of June 2020. [13] [ needs update ][ United Kingdom-centric ]

Prevention and cure claims

Widely circulated rumours have made many unfounded claims about methods of preventing and curing infection with SARS-CoV-2. [19] Among others:

Hand cleaning

Washing hands with plain soap and water (for >=20 seconds) is effective at removing SARS-CoV-2. Hand sanitizer is a slightly inferior option for sanitizing hands. Neither antibacterial soap nor red soap are any more effective than plain soap. Tualetsapo.jpg
Washing hands with plain soap and water (for ≥20 seconds) is effective at removing SARS-CoV-2. Hand sanitizer is a slightly inferior option for sanitizing hands. Neither antibacterial soap nor red soap are any more effective than plain soap.
  • Hand sanitizer is not more effective than washing in plain soap and water. [24] Washing in soap and water for at least 20 seconds is recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the best way to clean hands in most situations. However, if soap and water are not available, a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol can be used instead, unless hands are visibly dirty or greasy. [20] [21]
  • Soap is effective at removing coronaviruses, but antibacterial soap is not better than plain soap. [22] [23]
  • Red soap is not more germicidal than soaps of other colors, contrary to claims in a popular Facebook post, said Ashan Pathirana, the registrar of Sri Lanka's Health Promotion Bureau (HPB); he suggested that it might be a reference to carbolic soap. [25] [ medical citation needed ]
  • Hand sanitizer prepared at home by mixing rum, bleach and fabric softener has been widely promoted as effective at preventing COVID-19 in YouTube videos in the Philippines. The Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (ICP) released statements saying that alcoholic drinks contain only about 40% alcohol, less than the 70% needed in effective hand sanitizers, and that mixing bleach and alcohol creates chloroform, which is toxic and dangerous when inhaled or when it comes in contact with the skin. The manufacturers of the brands of rum and bleach used in the videos have both publicly issued statements calling the recipe dangerous and urging people not to use it. [26] [ medical citation needed ] [27]
  • Vodka was alleged to be an effective homemade hand sanitizer, or an ingredient in one. The company whose brand was alleged to be protective responded to the rumours by citing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statement that hand sanitizers needed to be at least 60% alcohol to be effective, and stating that their product was only 40% alcohol. [28] [29] [ medical citation needed ]
  • Claims that vinegar was more effective than hand sanitizer against the coronavirus were made in a video was shared in Brazil. That was disproved, as "there is no evidence that acetic acid is effective against the virus" and, even if there was, "its concentration in common household vinegar is low". [30] [ medical citation needed ]

Gargling, nasal rinses, and inhalation

  • Inhaling bleach or other disinfectants is dangerous and will not protect against COVID-19. They can cause irritation and damage to tissues, including the eyes. They are poisonous and WHO has warned not to take it internally and to keep it out of the reach of children. They can be safely and effectively used to disinfect non-human surfaces, like countertops, but not humans. [17]
  • Controversial alternative medicine proponents Joseph Mercola and Thomas Levy claimed that inhaling 0.5–3% hydrogen peroxide solution using a nebulizer could prevent or cure COVID-19. [31] [32] They cite research using hydrogen peroxide to sterilize surfaces, [33] [34] incorrectly asserting that it can therefore be used to clean human airways. A tweet from Mercola advertising this method was removed from Twitter on April 15, 2020, for violating the platform rules. [32] Inhalation of hydrogen peroxide can cause upper airway irritation, hoarseness, inflammation of the nose, and burning sensations in the chest. At high concentrations, inhaling hydrogen peroxide can cause permanent neurological damage or death. [35] Though hydrogen peroxide use as an alternative and complementary form of medicine is advocated for use in multiple disease processes, including COPD, asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis, there seems to be no trials regarding its use. [36] It was reported a case of possible side effect related to chronic (during 5 years) and subacute hydrogen peroxide inhalation use which lead to interstitial lung disease in the form of acute pneumonitis. [36]
  • Gargling with saltwater was said to kill the coronavirus in claims on Weibo, Twitter and Facebook. These claims were falsely attributed to respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan, Wuhan Union Hospital, and a number of other people and institutions, sometimes with the attribution changed and the actual advice copied verbatim. Zhong Nanshan's medical team published a refutation, asking people not to share it; they pointed out that the virus settles in the respiratory tract, which cannot be cleaned by rinsing the mouth. The WHO also said it had no convincing evidence that this method would provide any protection against COVID-19. [37]
  • Saltwater sprays were given at the door of the River of Grace Community Church in South Korea in the false belief that this would protect people from the virus; the same unsterilized spray bottle was used on everyone, and may have increased the risk. Subsequently, 46 devotees were infected with the virus. [38] [39]
  • "Corona-Cure Coronavirus Infection Prevention Nasal Spray" was fraudulently marketed online. [40]
  • There is no evidence that saline nasal rinses help prevent COVID-19. [17]

Temperature

A World Health Organization infographic dispelling the myth that hot and humid weather prevents the spread of the virus. FACT- The COVID-19 virus can spread in hot and humid climates.png
A World Health Organization infographic dispelling the myth that hot and humid weather prevents the spread of the virus.
  • Cold weather and snow do not kill the COVID-19 virus. The virus lives in humans, not in the outdoors, though it can survive on surfaces. Even in cold weather, the body will stay at 36.5–37 degrees Celsius inside, and the COVID-19 virus will not be killed. [17]
  • Hot and humid conditions do not prevent COVID-19 from spreading, either. There have been many COVID-19 cases in countries with hot and humid climates. [17]
  • Drinking warm water or hot baths/heating to 26–27 °C (79–81 °F) will not cure people of COVID-19. It has been claimed that these statements were made by UNICEF in coronavirus prevention guidelines, but UNICEF officials refuted this. [41] [17] [42]
  • High temperatures cannot be used on humans to kill the COVID-19 virus. Taking very hot baths can cause burns, but the body will stay at 36.5–37 degrees Celsius inside, and the COVID-19 virus will not be killed. [43] [17]
  • Hot saunas and hand or hair dryers do not prevent or treat COVID-19. [44] [17]
  • Steam inhalation was suggested as a cure for coronavirus infection that circulated on Facebook. [45] [46]

Radiation

UV-C light being used to sterilize equipment in a laboratory. UV-C cannot be used to disinfect people as it can damage the skin and eyes. Laborivahendite steriliseerimine kasutades UV-kiirgust.jpg
UV-C light being used to sterilize equipment in a laboratory. UV-C cannot be used to disinfect people as it can damage the skin and eyes.
  • Exposing people to sunlight will not prevent or cure COVID-19. It has been falsely claimed that UNICEF said so, in coronavirus prevention guidelines; UNICEF officials refuted this. [41] [17] [42] The virus can spread in even the sunniest of weather. [17]
  • UV-C light cannot be used on humans to kill the COVID-19 virus. Attempting to use UV to sterilize people can cause skin irritation and damage the eyes. [43] [17]
  • White color does not have a 'harmful effect' on coronavirus, as claimed in a widely shared Facebook post; nor does the colour of a handkerchief have an effect on the virus, according to Ashan Pathirana, the registrar of Sri Lanka's Health Promotion Bureau (HPB). Using handkerchiefs or tissues of other colours to sneeze or cough into will be just as effective. [25] [ medical citation needed ]
  • Posts on social media claimed that volcanic ash from the eruption of the Taal Volcano on January 12, 2020, in the Philippines was the cause of low infection rates in the country, stating that it could kill the virus and had "anti-viral" and "disinfectant qualities". [47]
  • Drinking bleach is extremely dangerous and will not protect against COVID-19. Bleach is poisonous and damages internal organs. Drinking it can cause disability and death. The WHO has warned not to drink the substance. [17]

Protective equipment

Drugs of abuse

Methanol-3D-balls.png
Methanol has one carbon atom (dark grey). It is immediately poisonous; a single dose can cause blindness, brain and spinal cord damage, and death. [52] Blackmarket alcoholic drinks may contain methanol. [53]
Ethanol-3D-balls.png
Ethanol has two carbon atoms (dark grey). Ethanol should not be confused with methanol. Ethanol-containing drinks are widely drunk. This doesn't prevent COVID-19, and may cause subclinical immunosuppression. [54]

Commercial products

Homeopathic globuli (sugar pills) do not make people immune to COVID-19. Nogloboli.png
Homeopathic globuli (sugar pills) do not make people immune to COVID-19.

There are many fraudulent and unproven products that are claimed to treat or protect against COVID-19. [1] [5]

Colloidal silver is falsely marketed as a cure for COVID-19 infection. Plata Coloidal Super Tyndall Effect.jpeg
Colloidal silver is falsely marketed as a cure for COVID-19 infection.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

China officially promotes the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat COVID-19. [84] Many academic papers, such as Shi et al., [85] have been published trying to establish the effectiveness of various decoctions such as Qingfei Paidu Decoction. Most of the western media hold a skeptical attitude about its effectiveness, despite many positive accounts. [86] There is much ongoing research trying to identify the effective ingredients for treating COVID-19 from inspirations from the TCM methods.

Botanical claims

The poisonous fruit of the datura plant was claimed by some to be effective against coronavirus because it physically resembles the virus's virion. Datura fruit.jpg
The poisonous fruit of the datura plant was claimed by some to be effective against coronavirus because it physically resembles the virus's virion.

Religious and magical methods

Zoonosis involves a disease hopping between humans and other animals Figure 3- Examples of Zoonotic Diseases and Their Affected Populations (6323431516).jpg
Zoonosis involves a disease hopping between humans and other animals
Performing wudu, a washing before prayer, from individual sinks rather than a common pool. Wudu Istiqlal Mosque.JPG
Performing wudu, a washing before prayer, from individual sinks rather than a common pool.

Food and drink

A poster for spreading awareness of unproven food claims Foolproofaprilseries01.png
A poster for spreading awareness of unproven food claims

Fruit

  • Drinking lemon in warm water has been claimed to prevent both COVID-19 and cancer by increasing vitamin C levels. This claim circulated on Facebook in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. There is no evidence that vitamin C was effective against coronaviruses, nor are lemons the fruit with the most vitamin C content, said Henry Chenal, director of the Integrated Bioclinical Research Centre (CIRBA) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. [121] The WHO said that there was no evidence that lemons would protect against COVID-19, though they recommended consuming fresh fruit and vegetables in a healthy diet. [42]
  • Bananas were claimed to be able to strengthen the immune system and prevent and cure COVID-19. The claim was based on a composited video that falsely attributed the statements to researchers at the University of Queensland. The University stated that the video was faked and urged people not to share it. [122] [123]
  • Eating mango or durian will not cure COVID-19. [42]
  • Onions were rumoured to be a preventive measure against COVID-19 on Facebook. [124]

Herbs and spices

  • Garlic was said to prevent COVID-19 on Facebook. [124] There is no evidence that garlic protects against COVID-19. [17]
  • Hot peppers cannot prevent or cure COVID-19. [17]
  • Consuming large amounts of boiled ginger after fasting for a day was rumoured to prevent or cure coronavirus on Facebook. There is no evidence that this prevents or cures any coronavirus infection, Mark Kristoffer Pasayan, a fellow at the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, said. [125] [124]
  • Juice of bittergourd, a vegetable used in traditional medicine, was suggested as a cure for COVID-19 on social media. [126]
  • Consuming turmeric has been claimed to help prevent COVID-19, [127] but the WHO says there is no evidence that it does. [42]
  • Neem leaves ( Azadirachta indica ) were claimed to be remedies for COVID-19 in rumours that circulated in India. [128]
  • Various retailers have marketed herbal products and essential oils fraudulently claimed to cure or prevent COVID-19. [40]

Drinks and frozen foods

A poster explains that alcohol hand-sanitizers kill coronaviruses, but alcoholic drinks do not protect against COVID-19 Foolproofaprilseries04.png
A poster explains that alcohol hand-sanitizers kill coronaviruses, but alcoholic drinks do not protect against COVID-19
  • Drinking alcohol will not prevent or cure COVID-19, [17] contrary to some claims. [129] Drinking alcohol may cause subclinical immunosuppression [54] (see "Addictive drugs" section above).
  • Drinking water every 15 minutes was claimed to prevent coronavirus infection. [130] Drinking large amounts of water will not prevent or cure COVID-19, though avoiding dehydration is healthy. [42]
  • Tea was said to be effective against COVID-19 in claims circulating on social media, which said that since tea contained the stimulants methylxanthine, theobromine and theophylline, it was capable of warding off the virus. These claims were falsely attributed to Dr Li Wenliang. [131] [100]
  • Fennel tea (supposedly similar to the medicine Tamiflu—itself ineffective against coronaviruses—according to a false e-mail attributed to a hospital director) was claimed to be a cure in Brazil. [56]
  • So-called cures in messages spreading in Brazil included avocado and mint tea, hot whiskey and honey, essential oils, and vitamins C and D. [62]
  • Facebook claims that 'gargling salt water, drinking hot liquids like tea and avoiding ice cream can stop the transmission of COVID-19' have been criticized by health professionals. [132]
  • Eating ice cream and frozen foods will neither cure nor cause COVID-19, as long as they are hygienically prepared. [42] This claim was widely attributed to UNICEF, which put out a statement saying that they had made no such claim: "To the creators of such falsehoods, we offer a simple message: STOP. Sharing inaccurate information and attempting to imbue it with authority by misappropriating the names of those in a position of trust is dangerous and wrong". [133]

Meat

  • Claims that vegetarians are immune to coronavirus spread online in India, causing "#NoMeat_NoCoronaVirus" to trend on Twitter. [134] Eating meat does not have an effect on COVID-19 spread, except for people near where animals are slaughtered (see zoonosis), said Anand Krishnan, professor at the Centre for Community Medicine of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). [135]
  • Eating chicken will not cause COVID-19, as long as it is hygienically prepared and well-cooked. [42]

Dishes

  • There is no evidence that eating curry or rasam protects against COVID-19. [42]

Exercises

Use of existing medications unproven against COVID-19

Anti-fraud efforts

Related Research Articles

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COVID-19 misinformation by the United States Disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic propagated by officials of the U.S. government

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COVID-19 misinformation by governments Disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic propagated by officials of a government

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The Chinese government has actively engaged in disinformation to downplay the emergence of COVID-19 in China and manipulate information about its spread around the world. The government also detained whistleblowers and journalists claiming they were spreading rumors when they were publicly raising concerns about people being hospitalized for a "mysterious illness" resembling SARS.

Misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines consists of disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic propagated by various sources.

COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and hesitancy Misinformation regarding the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and the resulting hesitancy towards it

Anti-vaccination activists and other people in multiple countries have spread a variety of unfounded conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines based on misunderstood science, religion, and other factors. Theories including overblown claims about side effects, a story about COVID-19 being spread by childhood vaccines, misrepresentations about how the immune system works, and when and how COVID-19 vaccines are made have proliferated, contributing to widespread vaccine hesitancy among the public. This has led to governments around the world introducing measures to encourage vaccination, which has in turn led to further misinformation about the legality and effect of these measures themselves.

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