In a perplexing press conference held on Thursday, April 23, US President Donald Trump suggested some novel "treatments" for Covid-19 in light of research carried out by the US government. Prior to Trump taking the stand, one of his advisers, William Bryan, acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, had detailed the results of investigations into the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The research looked at the effect of light and heat on the virus’ ability to survive, finding that it was weakened significantly faster in direct sunlight and at higher temperatures.
The research also detailed what happened when the virus was treated with disinfectants (crucially, outside of the body) which revealed isopropyl alcohol was more effective than bleach. At time of writing the research hasn’t been released for review by third parties. US officials reported that the investigations might indicate Covid-19 could be hampered by a change in the seasons much like the seasonal flu, though evidence of the virus currently thriving in humid regions such as Singapore throws these claims into question.
The president, however, took these preliminary studies one step further. Ever one for thinking outside of the box, and sometimes outside of the realms of possibility, he suggested his team of physicians, including Dr Deborah Birx, the Administration's Coronavirus Response Coordinator, might consider these avenues for trials on the human body. "Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light. And I think you said that hasn't been checked but you're going to test it.”
He then turned to Dr Birx and asked if she had ever heard of using "the heat and the light" to treat coronavirus. She responded, “Not as a treatment. I mean, certainly, fever is a good thing, when you have a fever it helps your body respond. But I've not seen heat or light."
Trump continued, undeterred, "I think it's a great thing to look at.” Possibly, Dr Birx’s reaction speaks for us all.
Ultraviolet radiation is the same kind that comes from the Sun, and if you’ve ever taken a danger nap on summer’s day with inadequate protection you might recall the painful, blistering, and peeling sensation that comes from UV damage. The idea of bringing, as Trump suggested, “the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way,” would, most likely, result in something a bit like this:
Trump’s second novel idea related to a segment of the government’s research discussing which disinfectants work best on the virus. The president said, “I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside [the body] or almost a cleaning?”
Some health professionals have been quick to remind the general public that injecting, ingesting, or inhaling disinfectants can be very dangerous and even fatal. In light of the recent spike in cleaning-product related calls to Poison Control under lockdown, the fear that anyone may take this information seriously is such that disinfectant manufacturers such as RB have, within hours, released information on improper use of disinfectants imploring their customers, “we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route).”
While ridiculous to the point of tragi-comedy, the suggestions pose a real threat to the community in distracting the conversation from real solutions and putting dangerous ideas into the heads of people who are afraid. We withheld from asking a doctor to comment on the president's suggestions because, quite frankly, they've got more important things to be doing.
At one point in the conference, Mr Trump pointed to his head and said, “I'm not a doctor. But I'm, like, a person that has a good you-know-what."
Answers on a postcard, folks.