Alcohol is the main ingredient used in disinfectants and hand sanitizers, it can kill germs/pathogens effectively if used appropriately. Even the WHO (World Health Organization) requires disinfecting surfaces such as tables and door handles and hands to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
However, there are rumors that drinking alcohol can prevent or even cure Covid-19. Is this really true? Check out the following article.
Alcohol is a group of compounds that have one or more OH groups (hydroxyl groups). Alcohol is one of the most important compounds because it can be easily changed to and from many other types of compounds.
Alcohol has many types and of course, not all of them can be used to kill germs. Among the types of alcohol that are often used as disinfectants are ethanol and isopropanol. While methanol, although included in alcohol is very ineffective in killing germs, even toxic and is generally used in the industry. Therefore, methanol is not used as a hand sanitizer.
It has been known for centuries that alcohol can kill germs. Greek physicist named Galen even used wine to clean the wounds of gladiators in 150 BC.
Alcohol with a high concentration, is able to denature/destroy the proteins that make up the virus or bacteria (usually the membrane/wall) makes it inactive, or in other words, kill it.
Then Why Consuming Alcoholic Beverages Does Not Kill Viruses and Bacteria?
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), it takes at least 60% alcohol concentration to be able to kill germs. A concentration of 60% to 90% is the optimal concentration level. Because of this, hand sanitizers generally have a 70% alcohol concentration.
Meanwhile, alcoholic drinks generally have alcohol concentrations below 60%, which means that they are still below the concentration level needed to kill most types of viruses and bacteria. The average alcohol concentration of some popular alcoholic drinks is beer (4 – 8%), wine (5.5 – 24%), whiskey (36 – 50%), vodka (40 – 95%), and rum (36 – 50%). These numbers have an average concentration below the minimum to be able to kill viruses and bacteria.
Besides, after consumption, the level of alcohol entering the bloodstream also becomes much lower than the level when consumed. 0.08% alcohol content in the blood includes toxicity, which is only about 1/1000 of hand sanitizer alcohol content. Alcohol levels of more than 0.35% in the bloodstream are even categorized as fatal poisoning. Thus, in the bloodstream, alcohol will kill the person first before killing the virus and bacteria.
Therefore, although consuming alcoholic drinks such as vodka for example with a concentration of 40% will not help kill viruses and bacteria help recover from infections. Even if you drink up to 95% alcoholic drinks, blood alcohol levels will not be enough to kill viruses and bacteria.
You can also read more about Coronavirus at the following source.
Alcohol Increases Risk of Infection
Besides sounding toxic, alcohol alone actually increases the risk of infection, especially consumption in large quantities. Alcohol risks “disrupting” the cell genes in the stomach which can result in too much stomach acid production. This is bad news considering that stomach acid is the most effective defense against bacteria. The presence of alcohol has also been observed to weaken the immune system, making pathogens more harmful. Besides, alcohol and its by-products when consumed also risk being able to make a very small hole in the stomach. This results in the easier toxic substances to ‘leak’ out, making the heart have to work harder to clean it.
Alcohol used to kill viruses and bacteria does not produce the same results if we consume it. Too little content has no effect, while high levels become toxic and risk killing. Besides, alcohol in the middle to upper levels of concentration also increases the risk of infection instead of helping to recover from the infection.
Therefore, as protection and defense, it is good to use alcohol as a disinfectant for hand and tableware as a first step to prevent pathogens from entering the body. Stay safe and healthy!
Sources and References:
- Can Drinking Alcohol Kill Germs? Definitely Not — Here’s Why – Insider
- Can Your Alcoholic Beverage Kill Germs in Your Body? – Neogen
- The Alcohol Percentage Contents of Various Beverages
- Organic Chemistry/Alcohols – Wikibooks
- Does Drinking Alcohol Kill Your Gut Bacteria? – SciShow
- Methanol Not Effective or Safe Hand Sanitizer or Disinfectant Cautions MI – Bio Energy International