A medical worker prepares to vaccinate people at a school in Bangkok. (AFP / Lillian Suwanrumpha)

Gargling antiseptic does not prevent coronavirus, health experts warn

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A video viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter features a purported doctor claiming that gargling an antiseptic prevents Covid-19 infection. The claim is false, according to health experts.

The video was shared here on YouTube on April 24, 2021. It has been viewed more than 139,000 times.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on May 3, 2021

The video’s Thai-language caption reads: “Doctor suggests boosting immunity to prevent Covid-19 by gargling povidone-iodine, protecting the virus from entering the lungs #TokMaiTiang”.

“Tok Mai Tiang” or “The Discussion” is a Thai television show that features debate about social topics.

The nearly five-minute video, which was cut from this full episode of the show, features an interview with a purported physician, Dr. Toranas Krataitong, or “Dr. Dear”.

At the clip's 40-second mark, he says: “Normally when the virus enters our nose and mouth, it will move to the bronchi and lungs. The important thing is to “gargle”. There have been a lot of research papers that show that using povidone-iodine, which is locally known as “Betadine” gargle version or “Propoliz”, can be found in chemists.

"This can prevent Covid-19 from going into your mouth to the lungs. Those who are not infected with Covid-19 yet should do this.”

Povidone-iodine is used as a disinfectant and antiseptic in surgery and to treat contaminated wounds.

It is commercially available under the name Betadine as antiseptic cream and spray, as well as a liquid to gargle to “treat and relieve sore throat symptoms”.

Thailand has recorded more than 74,900 cases of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to an AFP tally on May 5, 2021.

The video was widely shared on social media in Thailand, including here and here on Facebook, here on Twitter, and here on a blog.

Health experts warned the claim in the video is false. 

Dr. Pokrath Hansasuta, an assistant professor of virology at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, said there was “no academic evidence” to support the claim in the misleading posts. 

“There is no evidence to support the use of povidone-iodine in preventing Covid-19 infection. If it actually worked, then we would be spraying it all the time,” he told AFP on May 3, 2021.

Dr. Pokrath added that povidone-iodine is an antiseptic that should only be used on external parts of the body.

“The question to ask before putting anything in your body is whether it is safe. Povidone-iodine is originally meant to be for external use.”

On the “Covid-19 response” section of its website, Betadine said that none of its antiseptic products had been approved to treat coronavirus.

“Betadine Antiseptic products have not been demonstrated to be effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 or any other viruses,” it said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not list gargling antiseptic as an effective prevention for Covid-19.

Despite multiple health experts contradicting his claim, Dr. Toranas "Dear" Krataitong told AFP on May 5, 2021: “Covid-19 is a new disease that just emerged so there are no experts on this. The research papers I am referring to are evidence-based that show results of Covid-19 prevention in both [test] tubes and humans."