Experts warn against using Benadryl and milk to treat COVID, despite message from North Carolina legislator

RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — Several questionable methods have been suggested as treatments for COVID-19, from a drug that fights malaria to ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug.

But milk and Benadryl?

A North Carolina state legislator recently posted a study on social media that suggests compounds in these two common products may be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts, however, say more research is needed and caution against attempting to self-medicate with the compounds.

Rep. Jeff McNeely, R-Iredell, said on Facebook that milk “could be the answer to Covid-19,” before linking to the study published in November by a University of Florida immunologist.

One of his replies in the comment string read, “Drink people.”

Were these posts meant to be taken seriously or were they written in jest?

“A bit of both,” said McNeely, one of the chairs of the House agriculture committee, which represents the state’s main dairy-producing county.

The study found that the combination of diphenhydramine – the active ingredient in Benadryl – and lactoferrin – a protein found in cow and human milk – slowed down the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus when tested on monkey cells and human long cells. .

But there is a big difference between the results of a lab and those of the real world.

“Pushing this as a potential therapy — based solely on this work — is significantly premature,” said Dr. Timothy Sheahan, a virologist at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

“A lot of things showed antiviral activity in cells in a (Petri) dish,” he added. “A lot of these things, when studied further, no longer have efficacy and activity in a person.”

Dr. David Ostrov, an immunologist and associate professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine, led the study, which found that in human and monkey cells, the two drugs individually reduced virus replication by about 30% each – but together this reduction was 99 percent.

But it’s way too early for people to be raiding supermarket shelves for milk and Benadryl, Ostrov said. Although he is encouraged, he said there is still work to be done, including clinical trials.

“I would advise against people going out and taking it themselves,” Ostrov said. The study also used a type of lactoferrin that “differs slightly” from the type commonly available to the public, UF Health noted.

Compared to some other substances that have been pushed as treatments, Benadryl and milk pose a relatively low risk. But there are still concerns that people try to self-medicate and “chug Benadryl and gallons of milk” instead of seeing their doctor, Sheahan said.

“That’s what worries me is that people will take this information and make decisions about their health when they should be talking to better informed people,” Sheahan said.

When asked if he was worried about his post being flagged as potential misinformation, McNeely joked that “it won’t be the first time.”

“You’re in politics, Facebook loves to say you’re giving false information, whether you are or not,” he said.

But the bigger issue might be this: why do people keep clinging to so-called miracle cures in the first place?

“I truly believe there is a cure,” McNeely said. “And we don’t see it.”

Sheahan says people “need something to bring hope to. And they want some kind of magic therapy that will keep them from getting the coronavirus.”

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