Claim: A circulating photo on social media suggests that a newer version of Paracetamol P-500 contains a deadly virus.
Verdict: The claim that Paracetamol tablets contain the Machupo virus is false. This recurring hoax has appeared in different countries and has been debunked multiple times.
Paracetamol (Panadol, Calpol, Alvedon) is an analgesic and antipyretic drug used to temporarily relieve mild-to-moderate pain and fever. It is commonly included as an ingredient in cold and flu medications and is also used on its own. It is also the world’s most used over-the-counter acetaminophen drug.
In relation to this drug, a message circulating on WhatsApp raises awareness about it.
“Urgent Warning! Be careful not to take Paracetamol that comes written as P/500. It is a new, very white and shiny paracetamol. Doctors advise that it contains “Machupo” virus, considered one of the most dangerous viruses in the world with a high mortality rate. Please share this message with all Pepe on your contact list as well as family, and save a life or lives. I’ve done my part; now it’s your turn. Remember that God helps those who help others and themselves!”
Given the suspicious nature of this post, Prime Progress decided to investigate the truth behind this claim.
A Google search of the image reveals that the claim has been circulating since 2017, with the message appearing in Thai and Hindi.
The Times of India, a mediaorganization, also conducted a similar fact-check in 2019 regarding the same claim, with fake pictures of victims as supposed proof.
Experts consulted by AFP stated that it is impossible for Paracetamol tablets to contain the virus. Alisara Sangviroon Sujarit, a lecturer in pharmaceutical sciences at Chulalongkorn University in India, explained that tablet production requires very dry conditions, while the virus needs a humid environment and low temperatures to reproduce. Thus, the virus cannot survive in this type of environment.
In 2017, the Malaysian Ministry of Health declared the report as fake and advised disregarding it. They also confirmed that they had not received any reports of Paracetamol containing the Machupo virus from any manufacturer.
On May 7, theZambia Medicines Regulatory Authority issued a statement declaring the circulating message on social media as “inaccurate and not a cause for concern.” They further stated that no cases of the Machupo virus could be linked to Paracetamol.
Nonso Odili, Pharmacist and CEO of DrugIT, confirmed that the message is fake news that has been debunked several times.
What is Machupo?
Machupo is a zoonotic disease, also known as black typhus or Bolivian hemorrhagic fever. It was first discovered in 1959 in Bolivia, and cases have only been recorded in the South American country. The virus is spread through aerosolized transmission, food-borne routes, or direct contact with virus particles.
According to Stanford University, these particles originate from the saliva, urine, or faeces of Calomys callosus, the field mouse reservoir of the virus.
The virus spread most effectively when dried mouse urine on the dirt floors of homes was swept into the air during cleaning and inhaled by inhabitants of the home. Outbreaks of Machupo occur when there is a sudden increase in the rodent population due to abundant food sources or changes in human living and farming patterns.
Also, a public health information release by the Government of Canada notes that the Machupo virus is concentrated in Bolivia and surrounding areas. It goes further to say that ;
“The prevalence of the Machupo virus is limited to the location of its specific rodent hosts, which are commonly found in tropical grasslands and temperate forest regions of eastern Bolivian plains, northern Paraguay, and western Brazil.”
With all the facts considered, it is evident that the Machupo virus exists but is primarily centered in Bolivia. It has no connection to Paracetamol P-500, rendering the entire claim false.