Doctors express concern over Trump's comments on disinfectant, UV light as COVID-19 treatments

The president's comments during the latest White House press briefing were met with extreme concern from the medical community.
/ Source: TODAY

With no standard treatment for COVID-19, President Trump raised an idea during Thursday's press briefing: injecting disinfectant and shining UV light into the human body to kill the coronavirus. The comments were inspired by research he was presented with beforehand, which addressed how long the virus can survive on surfaces and in warm weather.

"I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute," Trump told reporters. "Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? ... Because, you see, it gets on the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So that you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds — it sounds interesting to me."

In response, doctors have stressed that the idea is deadly and the public should not try this approach.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Trump-nominated head of the Food and Drug Administration, said in a CNN town hall: "We certainly wouldn't want ... someone to take matters into their own hands ... I certainly wouldn't recommend the internal ingestion of disinfectant."

Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert, told NBC News: "This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible, and it's dangerous ... It's a common method that people utilize when they want to kill themselves ... Any amount of bleach or isopropyl alcohol or any kind of common household cleaner is inappropriate for ingestion even in small amounts. Small amounts are deadly."

Gupta added that he found it "demoralizing" to see the White House "peddle improper health messaging."

He stressed concern as to how the comments could be received: "It's exceptionally dangerous. There's people who hang on to every word of the president."

While Trump did not specify a particular brand or type of disinfectant, a popular manufacturer of these products, Lysol, has also disavowed his comments.

"We must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)," said a spokesperson for Reckitt Benckiser, the United Kingdom-based owner of Lysol, in a statement to NBC News.

The Environment Protection Agency shared a similar message: "Never apply the product to yourself or others. Do not ingest disinfectant products."

Also during Thursday's press conference, the president brought up heat and light as possible treatments for COVID-19.

"Supposing we hit the body with ... ultraviolet or just very powerful light," he said. "Supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do, either through the skin or in some other way."

Trump then asked Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House's coronavirus task force to comment. She said she hadn't heard of either heat or light "as a treatment."

NBC News contributor and virologist Dr. Joseph Fair echoed this idea when he spoke with TODAY co-anchor Savannah Guthrie about Trump's comments and the research the president saw.

"We know UV light will inactivate any virus, and we know that UV light in general serves as a ... good disinfectant, but it also causes things like sunburn," Fair said Friday morning. "That's why you wouldn't want to put it inside yourself."

He went on to reset expectations many people have about the virus abating in the summer.

"This virus behaves so similar to other coronaviruses with regard to temperature, heat and humidity and UV light that we can possibly expect to see a dip in the number of cases in the summer," Fair explained. "(But) we still don't know enough about this virus to say that it's going to go away altogether in the summer."