During his now polemic Thursday press briefing, President Trump appeared to be referring to MMS, otherwise known as chlorine dioxide, a disinfectant that has been promoted for at least a decade as a miracle cure for a host of diseases, including cancer HIV/AIDS and even autism.
MMS, or Miracle Mineral Supplement, has never been subjected to serious scientific study and is widely dismissed by the medical community, but, it has recently made its way into the far right media and pro-Trump circles.
It was originally formulated in 2006 by a former scientologist, Jim Humble, who created an organization called 'Genesis ll, the Church of Health and Healing', which is basically an online website where followers post instructional videos and sell its bleach cocktail.
Dubbed ‘ the church of bleach,’ it has numerous followers around the world, some calling themselves ‘bishops.’
A small clinical trial was announced April 13 in Bogota and Madrid, sponsored by Genesis Foundation, and cited on a US government website, ClinicalTrials.gov, maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The reference to the trial included a warning that “the safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators … [and] does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government.”
"Unproven and harmful"
Four days later the Food and Drug Adminsitration (FDA) issued a press release citing a Florida court ruling ordering the Genesis II Church to cease distributing MMS, which it called “an unproven and potentially harmful treatment offered for sale to treat Coronavirus.”
The FDA noted that the court found that the U.S. government had demonstrated that a family selling MMS in Bradenton, Florida were in violation of federal laws banning the sale of “unapproved” and “misbranded” drugs. It noted that MMS has a chlorine dioxide content equivalent to industrial bleach.
The family says it wrote to the White House this week to protest the court order. In his letter, Mark Grenon, the self-styled bishop of Genesis ll, told Trump that chlorine dioxide is “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body” and “can rid the body of Covid-19”.
In a video posted online, Grenon attacked the FDA. "We're not going to stand for it as a church," he said. "Who are they? They are nobody. They are a fricking agency that doesn't even do their job."
Univision wrote to Grenon seeking comment but did not receive an immediate reply.
"It has to be tested first"
Research shows that chlorine dioxide (ClO2) disinfectant is effective in fighting all kinds of bacteria on surfaces, as it acts as an oxidant that kills pathogens. Although its promoters claim numerous anecdotal cases of patients who were cured, it has not been tested in humans or covid-19.
"It has to be tested first. It cannot be advertised as curing something unless there is some scientific evidence," said José Szapocznik, a public health scientist at the University of Miami. "There are lots of anecdotes out there about things that might help people. But, as a friend of mine likes to say, 'the plural of anecdotes is not science," he added.
Genesis claims that MMS can be used to cure, mitigate, treat or prevent diseases such as COVID-19, Alzheimer’s, autism, brain cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS. Claims made on the Genesis websites, which provide a link to purchase MMS, include, “The Coronavirus is curable, you believe that? . . . MMS will kill it.”
The parent company of Lysol and another disinfectant warned Friday that its products should not be used as an internal treatment for the coronavirus after Trump wondered about the prospect during a White House briefing.
Trump noted Thursday that researchers were looking at the effects of disinfectants on the virus, saying “is there a way we can do something like that by injection, inside, or almost a cleaning?” he said. He added: “It would be interesting to check that.”
(Trump "explained" Friday that his comments had been intended as "sarcastic.")
But makers of disinfectants, and doctors the world over, responded in horror. “As a global leader in health and hygiene products, 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),” said the statement from Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Lysol.
“This is one of the most dangerous and idiotic suggestions made so far in how one might actually treat COVID-19,” Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia, told Reuters. “It is hugely irresponsible because, sadly, there are people around the world who might believe this sort of nonsense and try it out for themselves,” he added.
White House responds
The White House said on Friday that Trump’s comments on disinfectant had been taken out of context and had urged people to seek coronavirus treatment only after conferring with their doctors.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement: “President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing.”