How Donald Trump's disinfectant slip-up happened

·2 min read
Donald Trump - How Donald Trump's disinfectant slip-up happened - REUTERS
Donald Trump - How Donald Trump's disinfectant slip-up happened - REUTERS

Donald Trump was widely ridiculed for suggesting that injecting disinfectant into the lungs of coronavirus patients could wipe out the disease.

Although the US President undoubtedly got the wrong end of the stick, it has emerged that one company really is hoping to trial a new ultraviolet light therapy which it claims can ‘disinfect’ the lungs.

Colorado-based Aytu BioScience says it has carried out successful early tests of its ‘Healight’ technology which delivers intermittent ultraviolet light through a tube in the throat, directly to the lungs.

The company itself terms the process ‘injectable disinfectant’ and it is likely to be the origin of President Trump’s comments.

The ‘Healight’ therapy was first developed in 2017 by the Medically Associated Science and Technology (Mast) Program at the non-profit hospital Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.

The company says the treatment has shown potential as an effective antiviral and antibacterial treatment while causing no damage to mammalian cells.

Healight explainer - HEALIGHT
Healight explainer - HEALIGHT

Aytu is now working with Cedars-Sinai Hospital to speed up regulation so it can trial the technology on critically-ill coronavirus patients in intensive care units in California.

“Our team has shown that administering a specific spectrum of UV-A light can eradicate viruses in infected human cells (including coronavirus) and bacteria in the area while preserving healthy cells,” said Dr Mark Pimentel of Mast.

At a press briefing two days after Aytu issued a press release setting out their collaboration with Cedars-Sinai, President Trump said: “Supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way.

“Sounds interesting. I see the disinfectant — where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?”

President Trump’s comments were all the more confusing because they followed a presentation by Bill Bryan, an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who confirmed a study had found the virus dies when exposed to heat, sunlight, and humidity outside the body.

The press briefing led Reckitt Benckiser, the company that manufactures Dettol and Lysol, to issue a statement urging people not to drink or inject their products.

Since President Trump’s comments there has been a spike in calls to poison control centres in  Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, and New York, from people reporting exposure to household cleaners and disinfectants.

Earlier this week, a man was hospitalised in Atlanta after drinking a pint of bleach to prevent coronavirus.

President Trump has since denied responsibility for the rise in accidental poisonings, telling reporters earlier this week: “I can't imagine why. I can’t imagine that.”