Panic over Ebola has the makers of dietary supplements aggressively targeting Africans, claiming to have a cure for the lethal virus.
Late this week, both the World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration issued strong warnings about false Ebola cures. The latter threatened American companies with penalties if they continue making such claims.
Neither agency listed products or companies they accused of fraud or explained why they had acted so suddenly.
Nigeria’s health minister was widely reported on Thursday to have endorsed an American nutritional supplement, one that the W.H.O. said was an example of the sort of “false rumors of effective products” it was trying to quell.
Earlier this week, a W.H.O. expert panel ruled it ethical to try some experimental drugs to fight this outbreak; some supplement makers have implied that ruling constituted permission for use of their products, though a top W.H.O. official emphasized that it did not.
While discussing the shipment to Liberia of an experimental drug the panel did endorse, ZMapp, Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said an unidentified Nigerian scientist living overseas had arranged for Nigeria to get a different experimental medicine, according to Nigerian news outlets. They identified it as NanoSilver, a supplement offered by the Natural Solutions Foundation, which said that it contains microscopic silver particles, although, as a food supplement, it is not tested by regulatory agencies. Silver kills some microbes on surfaces and in wounds, but it can be toxic and is not F.D.A.-approved for systemic use against viruses.