As new cases of the Wuhan coronavirus are reported across the globe, online bootleggers are cashing in on another opportunity to sell a dangerous bleach cocktail that they claim can cure malaria, cancer, the flu, and even autism.
Now proponents are claiming the chlorine dioxide treatment can also cure or protect against the coronavirus.
But the FDA has warned that, not only is there no known cure for the virus, but the industrial bleach solution could have grave consequences, such as liver failure and extremely low blood pressure.
The "miracle mineral solution," as it's known online (MMS for short), is a solution of 28 percent sodium chlorite in distilled water. It's sold online for around US$28 for a 4-ounce (118-ml) bottle.
Consumers are instructed to "activate" the product by adding citric acid like lemon or lime juice (which are sometimes sold separately for an additional fee).
Proponents, including QAnon supporters, falsely claim it works because it contains compounds that are supposedly deadly to pathogens, but harmless to healthy tissue.
Health officials have been playing whack-a-mole with MMS since 2010
Public health officials started taking action to debunk health claims about MMS in 2010, with warnings issued in the US, the UK, and Canada.
But the internet fad has persisted.
Last year, the FDA urged Americans not to drink the dangerous chemical cocktail after receiving reports of people experiencing severe vomiting, diarrhea, life-threateningly low blood pressure, and acute liver failure after drinking the concoction.
On January 22, however, MMS proponents emerged again, piggybacking on growing fears surrounding the coronavirus.
The coronavirus is susceptible to chlorine dioxide, but not if you drink it
The latest conspiracy theory started when a Twitter user pointed out that the disease is included on a list of pathogens destroyed by chlorine dioxide solution.
The solution is used as an industrial disinfectant, including in water purification, to kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and sometime parasites.
In spite of this, other social media users quickly began retweeting or promoting MMS as a cure for coronavirus on their own pages, sometimes alongside other alternative health remedies like essential oils and colloidal silver. Many posts advocating for MMS also expressed skepticism or outright fear of vaccines.
Claims that MMS can cure coronavirus have been bolstered by conspiracy theorists with large followings online
Many of the posts promoting MMS have a similar format and use the same phrases, suggesting they may come from a common source. Although many posts, often using the hashtag "coronavirus," are from private accounts with few followers, more high-profile Twitter users also took up the cause.
YouTuber Jordan Sather, who has previously promoted the QAnon conspiracy, claimed on Twitter that the coronavirus is among the long list of ailments MMS can allegedly cure.
In a YouTube video posted on January 25, he also claimed that pharmaceutical stocks dramatically risen since news of the coronavirus become widespread, and suggests it was "bio-engineered" to increase profits.
Sather also complained on Twitter that YouTube has been banning MMS proponents, a crackdown that occurred after a previous Business Insider investigation found many videos advertising the solution as a cure for everything from cancer to autism.
Another popular QAnon commentator, known on Twitter as ChiefPolice, told their 17,000 followers to "protect yourself with the 20-20-20 spray," in reference to MMS.
According to the FDA, there is no research that shows MMS to be an effective treatment, cure, or prevention for any illness, coronavirus or otherwise.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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