Workers in protective suits at New York state’s first drive-through coronavirus testing center on March 13, 2020 (Timothy A. Clary / AFP)

Consuming silver particles will not prevent or treat novel coronavirus

Posts circulating on Facebook claim that colloidal silver -- silver particles in liquid -- can prevent or treat the novel coronavirus. This is false; US regulators say it is not safe for use against any disease.

“Colloidal Silver kills the Coronavirus! I take it every morning & give it to my pets,” says one post.

A screenshot of a Facebook post taken on March 13, 2020

“Colloidal silver beats the corona virus: clinical documentation,” says another post, which links to a website advertising colloidal silver products.

The post also includes an image that says “colloidal silver kills over 650 pathogens including the coronavirus.”

A screenshot of a Facebook post taken on March 13, 2020

Other posts, such as this one, advertise a colloidal silver product and allege that it can be used as “a shield against the COVID-19 virus” -- the official name of the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 5,000 people worldwide.

A screenshot of a Facebook post taken on March 13, 2020

But Dr Helene Langevin, director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a US National Institutes of Health (NIH) division, said these claims are inaccurate.

“There are no complementary products, such as colloidal silver or herbal remedies, that have been proven effective in preventing or treating this disease (COVID-19), and colloidal silver can have serious side effects,” Langevin said in an emailed statement.

“If you believe you have been exposed to, or infected with, the coronavirus, immediately contact a medical professional.”

The NIH website warns against taking the substance as a dietary supplement.

“In fact, colloidal silver can be dangerous to your health,” the website says.

Side effects can include a bluish-gray skin discoloration and poor absorption of some medicines, including antibiotics, according to the NIH. 

On March 9, 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission filed joint warning letters to seven companies for selling fraudulent products claiming to treat COVID-19, including a vendor peddling colloidal silver.

The companies were given 48 hours to correct their violations and report back to the agencies.

The toxic properties of silver are outlined on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which says that people who breathe or consume silver for long periods of time can be susceptible to skin discoloration.

AFP Fact Check has investigated more than 100 false and misleading claims about the novel coronavirus.