American medical community has lambasted President Donald Trump for suggesting research into whether coronavirus might be treated by injecting disinfectant into the body.
The president also appeared to propose irradiating patients’ bodies with UV light, an idea dismissed by a doctor at the briefing.
Another of the president’s officials had moments earlier said sunlight and disinfectant were known to kill the infection.
Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested.
Even external exposure can be dangerous to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.
During April 23 White House coronavirus task force briefing, an official presented the results of US government research that indicated coronavirus appeared to weaken more quickly when exposed to sunlight and heat.
The study also showed bleach could kill the virus in saliva or respiratory fluids within five minutes and isopropyl alcohol could kill it even more quickly.
William Bryan, acting head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, outlined the findings at the news conference.
While noting the research should be treated with caution, President Trump suggested further research in that area.
He said: “So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light.”
“And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting,” he continued.
“And then 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 or almost a cleaning?
“So it’d be interesting to check that.”
Pointing to his head, President Trump went on: “I’m not a doctor. But I’m, like, a person that has a good you-know-what.”
The president turned to Dr. Birx and asked if she had ever heard of using “the heat and the light” to treat coronavirus.
“Not as a treatment,” she said.
“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.”
“I think it’s a great thing to look at,” President Trump said.
However, doctors warned the president’s idea could have fatal results.
Pulmonologist Dr. Vin Gupta told NBC News: “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous.
“It’s a common method that people utilise when they want to kill themselves.”
John Balmes, a pulmonologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, warned that even breathing fumes from bleach could cause severe health problems.
He told Bloomberg News: “Inhaling chlorine bleach would be absolutely the worst thing for the lungs. The airway and lungs are not made to be exposed to even an aerosol of disinfectant.
“Not even a low dilution of bleach or isopropyl alcohol is safe. It’s a totally ridiculous concept.”
President Trump has previously hyped a malaria medication, hydroxycloroquine, as a possible treatment for coronavirus, though he has stopped touting that drug recently.
This week a study of coronavirus patients in a US government-run hospital for military veterans found more deaths among those treated with hydroxychloroquine than those treated with standard care.