What started as a simple infection from coronavirus bats has quickly become a zeitgeist-changing pandemic the likes of which haven’t been witnessed in over a century. In 2021, however, the coronavirus pandemic has finally started to slow down (but not stop, mind you) thanks to the mass rollout of vaccines across the world, many people are becoming hopeful again.
However, this is mostly true only in richer countries; in developing nations, vaccine rollouts are still slow, with many poorer countries being unable to find the funds to purchase enough vaccines for their entire population.
With a vaccine shortage in these countries, some people have started turning to alternative medicines to help ‘cure’ or prevent Covid-19 infections, to the dismay of healthcare professionals. Often, these alternative medicines and medications do nothing to stop the spread of the virus and, unfortunately, are encouraging people to be careless about their safety.
One of these alternative medications is the anti-bacterial ointment Mupirocin. Over the past few weeks, social media posts are touting the ointment’s purported efficacy against the spread of Covid-19. But is Mupirocin really effective, or is it just the modern-day version of snake oil?
Why are People Using Mupirocin Against Covid-19?
While the exact origin of the social media posts remains unclear, various people are sharing anecdotal information about the usage of Mupirocin to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In one Facebook post, people are instructed to rub a small amount of the antibiotic ointment in their nostrils.
The idea is simple: because Mupirocin is a proven anti-biotic, placing it inside your nostrils is supposed to kill any trace of the virus and other infectious germs before it reaches your respiratory system.
Mupirocin is NOT effective Against Covid-19
Unfortunately, this has proven to be false. Mupirocin, while an effective anti-bacterial ointment that is used extensively in fighting off topical infections, is not effective against Covid-19, which is a virus-borne illness. Fighting bacteria is very different from fighting viruses, and even then, applying any kind of medicine in your nostrils carries with it certain risks, like burning off your cilia (the little hairs in your nose), which can actually lead to an increase in risk.
Doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital released a statement saying that, while Mupirocin is used to effectively stave off bacteria like streptococcus and staphylococcus, it has no potency against viruses such as the coronavirus. Yes, some people are using allergy medication to treat certain symptoms, but not the virus itself. Remember: learn the difference between symptoms so you can tell whether your illness is allergies or Covid.
In fact, researchers from around the world are standing by their original advice on preventing Covid-19 infections: practice social distancing, be vigilant with hand washing and general hygiene, and avoid touching your face with your hands. These three simple steps, researchers say, are still the best way to reduce the risk of developing Covid-19.
But why is Mupirocin ineffective against Covid-19? Simple: Mupirocin is an anti-bacterial; this means it’s a medication designed to fight bacteria, not viruses. Bacteria and viruses have vastly different physical properties and biology, and while it might seem like anti-bacterial medicine and anti-viral medicine are interchangeable, they are not. In fact, mixing up the two might just be lethal. Learn more about Facebook’s policy of mitigating the spread of false news here.
It can be tempting to forego medical advice, but at the end of the day, WHO and CDC researchers know more about disease and infections than your nosy Aunt who spends all her days in Starbucks and posting false information in your family Whatsapp group. In fact, in some countries, people are being misled into believing that medicines like Ivermectin –an anti-parasite medication for animals –can be used to effectively treat the coronavirus.
Proponents swear to Ivermectin’s efficacy, despite multiple researchers, studies, and health experts saying: no, you cannot (and in fact you should not) use Ivermectin to treat Covid-19 or anything unless a medical expert advises you to do so (which they won’t, if you’re suffering from the coronavirus).
While it might all sound silly, using anti-bacterial and anti-parasitical medicines, the implications are very serious: using these medications without proper medical advice can –and often does– lead to serious health complications like liver failure or heart troubles. In the case of Mupirocin, the misuse of anti-bacterial ointments can lead to a person developing resistance to antibiotics in the future, which can –and often does– lead to even further complications.
Our advice? Listen to doctors, they know better, and don’t be shy about getting tested (CVS covid testing facilities are available across the country).