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Drinking tonic water will not prevent or cure coronavirus

April 9, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Tonic water or quinine supplements can be used to prevent or treat coronavirus symptoms. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Medical experts say as of now there is no proven medication or home remedy that can cure coronavirus. 

THE FACTS:  Posts circulating on Facebook and Twitter suggest that drinking tonic water from Schweppes or Fever-Tree will work to treat the new coronavirus because the drinks contain quinine. Other posts tout a combination of tonic water and zinc, an idea that gained traction after a St. Louis chiropractor posted a video recommending the combination. 

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Experts say there is no scientific evidence that quinine would have any impact if used in this way. The concentration used for medical use is much different from the concentration of quinine used in soft drinks, said Dr. Humberto Choi, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic. 

“I would not encourage anyone to drink tonic water to prevent or treat covid at all,” said Dr. Michael Angarone, assistant professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg school of Medicine. 

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration states that in carbonated beverages as a flavor, the level of quinine used should not exceed 83 parts per million. 

As far as taking tonic water and zinc, Choi said while zinc has been studied to see if it could help protect organs against low oxygen supply in cases of severe lung infection or inflammation, it has not been proven to treat the infection itself. 

“I don’t think people should be fooled to think they are ingesting something that is causing any benefit to them,” he said. 

Quinine is a compound found in the bark of the Cinchona tree and has been used to treat malaria. Malaria drugs like chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are the synthetic form of quinine. 

Social media users appear to be suggesting there is no difference between quinine and hydroxychloroquine, which has been touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine has not been approved as a drug to treat coronavirus and medical experts have not concluded whether the drug is safe or effective for this use. 

“The data so far in terms of therapeutic efficacy are pretty shaky,” said Dr. David Hamer, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health and School of Medicine and physician at Boston Medical Center. 

Tonic water companies like Fever-Tree are now debunking the myth on their websites. Fever-Tree says anti-malaria drugs “contain a significantly higher amount of quinine than tonic water.” 

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“We would not advise using our tonic water for anything other than making a tasty drink to keep your spirits up during this difficult time,” the company states on its website.

It’s not the first time tonic water has been promoted as a cure. Tonic water has also been falsely suggested as a way to cure malaria. 

“You have to be mindful of people touting miracle cures or cure all or miracle drugs for coronavirus,” Dr. Angarone said.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536