A resident wearing a face shield walks along a street in a neighbourhood under strict quarantine measures in Pasay City, suburban Manila, on March 16, 2021, as the number of new daily cases of Covid-19 coronavirus has surged to the highest level in seven months. (AFP / Ted Aljibe)

Facebook posts misleadingly tout pineapple drink as Covid-19 remedy

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A screenshot of a news report detailing research on a potential coronavirus treatment that involves pineapple plants has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook alongside photos of pineapple drinks. The posts suggest pineapple-based drinks could be a "natural remedy" for Covid-19. The claim is misleading: in August 2020, researchers in Australia studied a potential Covid-19 treatment that combined the pineapple enzyme with another agent; a researcher involved in the project told AFP in March 2021 that pineapple drinks “will not work” against Covid-19.

A screenshot of the news report has been shared more than 300 times after it was posted on Facebook here on February 28, 2021. 

“Breakthrough treatment: Could pineapples be the key to a Covid-19 cure?” the report’s headline reads. The screenshot was shared alongside photos of pineapple drinks.

The Facebook post is captioned: “Pineapple extract (bromelain) can dissolve corona viruses’ spike proteins according to an Australian scientist. Another possible natural remedy for C19 (sic)?”

A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on March 23, 2021

The post circulated as the Philippines, which has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific region, continues its efforts to combat the pandemic. 

Surging infections in March 2021, mostly around the capital Manila, prompted the government to reimpose restrictions such as closing churches and banning leisure travel. 

The country has logged more than 670,000 infections and almost 13,000 deaths, according to an AFP tally on March 24, 2021.

The screenshot of the news report was also shared alongside photos of pineapple drinks on Facebook here, here and here

The posts, however, are misleading.

A keyword search on Google found the news report was posted on YouTube by Australian news organisation 7News here on August 18, 2020.

The report details a potential Covid-19 treatment that uses an enzyme in the pineapple plant stem, among other ingredients. At no point does it mention consuming pineapple drinks, as the misleading posts allege.

"There is an enzyme in the stem of the pineapple plant... it's part of our drug,” Professor David Morris is quoted saying in the report. The enzyme, he added, is combined with another agent, “neither of which had any action on their own.” 

In an email to AFP on March 23, 2021, Morris directly refuted the misleading posts, stating pineapple drinks “will not work.”

“We do not advocate pineapple drinks,” he said. “We studied the effect of bromelain, which is derived from the stem of the pineapple plant together with acetylcysteine. A combination drug, we refer to the combination as BromAc.”

“We were able to show disruption of the spike and other protein and also show that after BromAc treatment, the SARS-CoV-2 mutant and wildtype virus was non infective in host cells.”

“Neither agent (bromelain alone or acetylcysteine) is effective alone.”

The misleading claim was also debunked by Philippine fact-checking organisation Vera Files.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a deluge of misinformation online, including purported natural remedies and treatments. AFP has debunked more than 800 false and misleading claims about the pandemic here.

UPDATE: This article was updated on March 29, 2021 to improve the clarity of the headline and summary.