05/04/2020 / By Isabelle Z.
There’s no question that coronavirus is a very scary illness, and it’s not surprising that some people are willing to try various remedies that have shown some spark of promise. While focusing on increasing your intake of certain vitamins, for example, is unlikely to cause harm, other approaches are decidedly riskier – such as injecting yourself with blood you bought online.
On the dark web, it’s now possible to buy blood that supposedly comes from recovered coronavirus patients, where it’s being touted as a potential cure for the disease. According to researchers from the Australia National University, the criminals selling the blood are claiming it’s a sort of “passive vaccination” loaded with antibodies that could save lives.
They discovered the blood while exploring the way cybercriminals exploit the virus. The dark web is a place where buyers’ and sellers’ identities are hidden from police using special encryption methods, and criminals peddle drugs and stolen technology there, among other illegal items.
Apparently, people desperate to avoid the disease may be willing to inject this blood into their bodies. The researchers found hundreds of unregulated products related to coronavirus, from personal protective equipment that they believe was stolen from factories to anti-malaria drugs. One of these cures was being sold for close to $16,500.
All told, they found 645 listings for 222 items on 12 different markets. Around six percent of the listings were supposed “vaccines” for the illness, despite the fact that no proven vaccine is currently available. Around half of the listings were for antiviral and other repurposed medications claiming to treat the disease, while personal protective equipment accounted for more than a third of all unique listings.
Some of the drugs listed are already easy to find and relatively cheap, such as chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and favipravir. Ventilators, test kits and industrial thermometers were also found.
Some darknet markets have made it clear that such products and sales tactics are unwelcome. One market banned the sale of products related to COVID-19 on ethical grounds, while some forum users vowed to turn over those running coronavirus scams to law enforcement.
Even if injecting the blood of a complete stranger who has recovered from COVID-19 could somehow prevent a person from getting the illness, there is absolutely no way of knowing that what you buy on the dark web is what it claims to be unless you happen to have a lab at home.
The researchers explained what else is so problematic with the fake vaccines. Using them despite the risks could make the virus spread even more as people who mistakenly believe they are immune behave like nothing can happen to them and then become infected anyway and pass the disease on.
In addition, should some of these items actually be legitimate samples of vaccines that are undergoing human or animal trials, it could impact the success of the clinical trials exploring them.
The head researcher of the investigation, Professor Rod Broadhurst, said: “For some people out there this pandemic is a criminal opportunity where they can cash in on fear and shortages. We think we will see more of that and we need some basic monitoring to start shutting it down.”
Those who are worried about the disease should focus on improving their overall health. Addressing any vitamin deficiencies, especially when it comes to vitamin C, zinc, or vitamin D, is a great way of enhancing health that could protect from the virus to some degree. It’s also a good idea to clean up your diet and start exercising regularly if you don’t already to keep your immune system in top shape so you stand a fighting chance against coronavirus and other illnesses.
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