(CNN)Even as global health authorities warn of potential dangers and misinformation about an untested natural therapy, the leader of one African country is pushing a traditional tonic to try to treat coronavirus patients across the continent.
Amid WHO warnings and with no proof, some African nations turn to herbal tonic to try to treat Covid-19
The product has not been tested in line with international standards, the World Health Organization said this week. Its use could accelerate resistance to an ingredient that has proven effective in treating malaria, heightening risk related to that potentially deadly infection, experimental medicine expert Dr. Arthur Grollman told CNN.
Madagascar, where many people rely on natural medicine, has agreed to work with the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on an herbal remedy it claims could help treat Covid-19, the bloc's deputy chairman announced Wednesday in a tweet.
The effort would aim to "benefit the continent at large," Kwesi Quartey tweeted.
But the World Health Organization, or WHO, has warned against using untested herbal therapies to treat coronavirus patients without first "establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials" in step with global standards.
WHO acknowledges medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua, from which the tonic is made, are "being considered as possible treatments" but stresses they "should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects," it wrote this month in a news release.
"As efforts are under way to find treatment for COVID-19, caution must be taken against misinformation, especially on social media, about the effectiveness of certain remedies," the agency wrote.
"Many plants and substances are being proposed without the minimum requirements and evidence of quality, safety and efficacy. The use of products to treat COVID-19, which have not been robustly investigated can put people in danger, giving a false sense of security and distracting them from hand washing and physical distancing which are cardinal in COVID-19 prevention, and may also increase self-medication and the risk to patient safety."
Madagascar's President, Andry Rajoelina, has put himself front and center in the push for the tonic he calls a preventive and curative remedy against the coronavirus. But he has not detailed how it supposedly treats the virus or discussed potential side effects. His spokeswoman has not responded to CNN's request Wednesday for comment.
Along with a photo of himself sipping an amber-colored fluid from a bottle, Rajoelina announced last month that scientists from the country's research institute had developed Covid Organics, or CVO, to treat Covid-19. CNN's calls and emails this week to the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research have not been returned.
CVO is made from the artemisia plant and other local Malagasy plants, the president said. The herb is a source of artemisinin, a significant component of modern antimalarials, and the plant has been the subject of Western studies looking at possible coronavirus treatments.