We are going through a turbulent period with the covid-19 pandemic, and many rumors of miraculous recipes are popping up all the time. In a video that started circulating on the internet this week, it is suggested that tonic water, widely used in cocktails, may be an effective weapon against the coronavirus because it contains, in its composition, a substance called quinine, which would be the base of chloroquine . However, this is just fake news.
Although there is no medicine against the disease, several treatments are being tested – the most famous of which includes the administration of chloroquine, which can bring several health risks and should only be taken with medical advice for specific cases. Only it has nothing to do with the quinine, present in the drink.
Cedric Graebin, professor of organic and medicinal chemistry at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, explains the confusion: “[Quinine] was used as an antimalarial until the emergence of antimalarials of synthetic origin (that is, produced from organic synthesis) in the 1940s. Tonic water is a carbonated sweet drink where quinine powder is dissolved. Because it was the first product discovered, it served as an inspiration for the synthesis of several antimalarials with similar structures, which we call quinoline antimalarials: chloroquine, amodiaquine, mefloquine, primaquine and tafenoquine ”.
“It is important to emphasize here that, although the structures are similar, they are not the same. Small changes in an organic molecule can lead to profound changes in the biological activity that is observed ”, he adds.
It doesn’t work and it wouldn’t work
The researcher also states that, even if it had something related to chloroquine, tonic water has a very low dose of quinine – which would have no effect on any diagnosis.
“The quinine content in tonic water today (it was more in the past) is (on average) at 83 mg per liter of tonic water (each can is 0.35 L, so it is close to 29 mg / can). The antimalarial dose of quinine in one tablet was 500 or 1000 mg. Even if it worked (it doesn’t work and there is no evidence that it works), would you be willing to take 17 cans of tonic water in less than 30 minutes (to reach the 500 mg dose) or 34 (for 1000 mg) in half an hour? ”
So, here is the reinforcement: tonic water does not work against the coronavirus. Social distance, increased hygiene care and wearing masks are still the best tactic to prevent. In addition, even if an effective medication appears, it may be better to avoid contamination instead of treating it, right?