Scientists warn there is no evidence Dettol can kill the deadly Wuhan coronavirus rapidly sweeping the world after bogus rumours about the disinfectant spray have been spread online.
Eagle-eyed social media spotted a label on the back of a bottle, which shows the product claiming to have been proven to ‘kill coronavirus’. It has been shared by thousands on social media.
Suggestions were made to ‘stock up’ on Dettol to prevent contamination. Some even fuelled conspiracies that Dettol is ‘the cure’ for the virus – but it has been covered up.
Although Dettol says its products rid some coronavirus strains, such as that which causes the common cold, they have not tested it against the lethal Wuhan strain yet.
The highly contagious virus, which can cause pneumonia, is spread with a cough or sneeze. Coronavirus may be able to spread on surfaces, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO, such as tables or handrails on public transport.
Images appear to be of genuine labels on several Dettol spray products which say it can ‘kill human coronavirus’.
It is unclear where the viral posts began, but one amused poster said: “A very drunk Richard found this last night.”
Others who ran to analyse their own Dettol product labels said: “How can this Coronavirus be a new thing? It’s been on bottles of Dettol for a while. As you can see it says it kills Human Coronavirus. So how come there is no known cure?”
Health expert speaks
Paul Hunter, Professor of health protection and medicine, said the active ingredient in Dettol’s original product is chloroxylenol.
“Chloroxylenol is active against a wide range of viruses and bacteria and including coronaviruses,” he said.
“Its use is as a surface disinfectant on hard surfaces or on skin and wounds. It can also be incorporated into soaps.”
Professor Hunter warned against using Dettol for anything other than cleaning purposes.
He told MailOnline: “Chloroxylenol is poisonous if ingested and it should not be used as an aerosol that people may breathe.
“Whether it offers any advantage over standard cleaning and washing with soap and water is unclear.”
Paul Kellam, professor of virus genomics at Imperial College London said: “I would not think Dettol has been tested for activity against the 2019-nCoV. Nevertheless, the manufacturers claim killing activity to a variety of microbes.”
Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said disinfectant sprays are indeed useful for getting rid of bugs.
He told MailOnline: “I imagine if used properly, that and other cleaning products would likely shift coronavirus (and most other bugs) from surfaces.”
Coronavirus is a broad category of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. One is the common cold, but the category also includes SARS.
SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), killed hundreds of people and infected 8,000 in the early 2000s across China.
The new coronavirus is similar to SARS, but has now infected even more people.
The ‘human coronavirus’ mentioned on the back of the Dettol bottle is likely referring to the common cold, considering the new strain was first properly identified in recently.
Dr Jonathan Stoye, head of division of virology, The Francis Crick Institute, told Plymouth Herald: “It should be made clear that the Wuhan virus is only one of many types of human coronavirus – another is associated with many common colds.
“Presumably, the cold virus has been tested for sensitivity to Dettol.”
Dettol manufacturers react
Dettol is part of the company Reckitt Benckiser, RB. In a statement, RB said: “RB has become aware of speculation about Dettol products and the novel 2019-nCoV coronavirus.
“As this is an emerging outbreak RB, like all manufacturers, doesn’t yet have access to the new virus (2019-nCoV) for testing and, as a result, are not yet in a position to confirm levels of effectiveness against the new strain.
“Although 2019-nCoV is a new strain, this virus is very similar to other coronaviruses.
“As a global leader in health and hygiene, we continue to play our part in combating and containing the outbreak of the virus.
“To this end, we have donated £5.5 million in cash and products to assist in the mobilisation of medical staff to treat those affected and provide soap and hand sanitisers to hospitals in Wuhan to help contain the further spread of the virus.”