As the country continues to experience increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, healthcare experts have warned Nigerians using local gin, popularly called ogogoro, as hand sanitisers to desist from it, saying it is ineffective to protect against the infection.
The experts said ogogoro has less than 60 percent alcohol content that is required to kill viruses, unlike alcohol-based hand sanitisers that have such high level alcoholic content.
They warned that using ogogoro as hand sanitiser only provides a false sense of security against the virus, maintaining that hand sanitisers with 60-80 per cent alcohol content are the most effective.
The experts said that in the absence of hand sanitisers, thorough hand washing with soap under running water remains the best option.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Olumide Akintayo, said people using ogogoro as hand sanitisers will not get any value for it.
“We don’t need to create a problem that is not there while trying to solve another.
“For a standard hand sanitiser to do what it ought to do to prevent against virus, it must have a minimum of 75 per cent alcohol.
“So, what you have in ogogoro is usually 40 percent rate or slightly higher, but that will certainly not do the job.
“People using ogogoro as hand sanitiser will not get any value for it. This is because, the percentage of alcohol you get in it is far less than what it should be in an ideal pharmaceutical formulation,” Akintayo warned.
The former PSN boss told our Correspondent that the alcohol content in ogogoro is usually between 40 and 45 percent.
“This is why I said the users will not get any result by using it as hand sanitiser.
“Ogogoro is usually formulated for consumption — for drinking and internal use. So, using it at that strength won’t serve the purpose for hand sanitiser,” he reiterated.
He advised Nigerians who cannot afford standard and well formulated hand sanitisers to regularly wash their hands with soap.
The pharmacist counselled, “If, for any reason, you cannot afford sanitisers, any average soap will thoroughly give you the same result that you should get from hand sanitiser.
“If you constantly wash your hands, especially when you have touched hard surfaces, or when you have had contact with unkempt environment and all that, just wash your hands with soap and clean water.
“You will achieve the same effect of killing germs that is very germane to keeping yourself safe and well in this unusual and tough season that we all find ourselves in.”
He also advised Nigerians to avoid any brand of sanitiser that is not well labelled or that does not have the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control number, warning that such products are unacceptable.
He urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and to always read labels before purchasing hand sanitisers.
Acting Head of Biochemistry and Nutrition Department, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Oluwagbemiga Aina, told our Correspondent that using ogogoro alone to sanitise the hands is not advisable.
Aina, who is the coordinator, Centre for Research in Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine at NIMR, however, said when mixed with other active ingredients, ogogoro could be effective in killing viruses.
He explained, “The alcohol content in ogogoro is between 30-60 percent. So, with 60 percent alcohol, if they add it to hydrogen peroxide, glycerol, fragrances and antiseptic, they can get protection because hydrogen peroxide is a powerful disinfectant that kills bacteria, staphylococcus and viruses, including coronavirus.
“It will work because the alcohol content in ogogoro is very high, instead of us looking for ethanol or trying to import ethanol.
“So, ogogoro can work when mixed with the above ingredients. But using it alone is not right. It is not advisable using it alone.”
The researcher further said, “So, we can use ogogoro to prepare hand sanitiser.
“But that can only be done in the lab by health personnel, though they use 70 per cent alcohol to make hand sanitiser.”
Aina, however, advised, “Instead of just using only ogogoro, which is not too okay, it is better for people to regularly wash their hands with soap because ogogoro cannot sanitise the hands except the stated ingredients are added to it.”
Head of School and Dean of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney, Prof. Andrew McLachlan, also warned, “I think it might provide them with a false sense of security.
“The high-alcohol-based sanitisers are the most effective at killing not only the bacteria but any particular type of virus.
“They [sanitisers] do so by disrupting their [viruses] outer membranes or envelope, and that won’t happen unless there’s at least 60 per cent alcohol content.”
Meanwhile, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria has warned members of the public to be wary of substandard hand sanitisers presently being sold in the market.
The acting State Coordinator of SON in Plateau, Mr. James Yakzam, gave the warning on Friday in Jos during the presentation of SON’s Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme, MANCAP, certification to deserving organisations.
“Hand sanitiser are supposed to be alcohol based, but SON observed that some products in the market are void of alcohol and as such, lack the efficacy to kill germs or sanitise the hands.
“Some of the products are concocted with all sorts of materials that could be detrimental to the end users.
“There is a specified standard for alcohol-based hand sanitiser and people who want to produce hand sanitisers locally should come to SON’s office to seek proper guidelines for production and for the purchase of the required alcohol.
“SON will be going round shops in the state to seize hand sanitisers that do not meet the specified requirement and anyone caught selling substandard sanitisers will be prosecuted.
“I want to advise the general public to stop purchasing manufactured products without SON’s certification,’’ he warned.
According to him, products without SON certification are in the market illegally and can be detrimental to the public, since they do not meet the requirements for quality and safety.
Yakzam said every product that meets the requirements of the Nigerian Industrial Standards is safe and certified with either a MANCAP or an NIS (Nigerian Mark of Quality) sign. culled from The Punch