Doctors and experts have proclaimed that coconut oil cannot be an antibiotic and can neither prevent nor cure dengue infection.
Preventive medicine specialist Dr Leylin Chowdhury told The Business Standard that antibiotics are chemicals that usually kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria and are used to treat bacterial infections.
No scientific study has proven that coconut oil prevents bacterial infections. Therefore, it is not advisable to use coconut oil as an antibiotic. “This is not less than a prejudice,” he said.
A photo of a hospital notice was published on Facebook in the Philippines regarding the false claim with a caption saying: “For public awareness.”
The notice says: “This message is to inform you all that dengue viral is going on. So please use coconut oil below your knees till your footsteps. It is an antibiotic. And a dengue mosquito cannot fly higher than knees. So please keep this in mind & start using it. Spread this message to as much as you can. Your one message can save many lives said by Dr. B. Sukumar, Sri Saisudha Hospital.”
WHO Philippines Medical Officer Dr Gawrie Loku Galappaththy said on July 10, “Coconut oil cannot be an antibiotic. There is no evidence that it can prevent or cure dengue.”
Dr Anh Wartel from the International Vaccine Institute said human bodies need vaccination for different diseases including dengue, not an outsider treatment like massaging oil. “Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infection, not for viral infection,” she said on July 7.
Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology Dr Edsel Salvana said there is no reliable scientific data which proves that coconut oil can prevent dengue fever.
Salvana also said that oil can be used as a barrier for mosquito bites but it is not a reliable treatment.
Experts also denied the claim that mosquitoes which spread dengue cannot fly higher than the knees.
Wartel on July 7 said: “Aedes aegypti, infected mosquitoes transmit dengue and spend their lifetime in or around the houses where they emerge as adults and they usually fly an average of 400 metres from the ground so it is not accurate that they cannot fly higher than the knees.”
Salvana on July 8 said: “Dengue carrying mosquitoes are generally low flyers and day biter and it can bite above the knees.”
Earlier many reports claimed that coconut oil is an antibiotic and can prevent dengue fever. The news has circulated for years in widely-shared social media posts in countries including the Philippines and India.
Photos have gone viral on social media sites since 2017 with various captions like, “best way to prevent dengue,” “Use coconut oil and avoid dengue fever.”
Below is a screenshot of the misleading post:
Orthopaedician Dr B Sukumar, who has been referred in the Philippines hospital notice, said he had never written such letter nor prescribed coconut oil for dengue.
He has been trying to clear his name for the past four years.
“I don't know why every year this message gets shared on WhatsApp. It is a fake news; I have never issued any alert or such notice.”
“This is a typed message in a font which resembles my handwriting,” he explained.