Fact-check: No, papaya leaf juice does not cure dengue

Health experts say there is no evidence to support claim that extracts of papaya leaves boost platelet count in patients infected with dengue virus

Pakistani health experts say there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that extracts of papaya leaves boost the platelet count in patients infected with the dengue virus. In fact, the juice can cause more harm to the patient than benefit, they add.

Claim

Several online publications and social media users have linked the treatment of dengue fever with consuming papaya leaf juice.

Hareem’s Kitchen Menu, a YouTube channel, posted a video on August 10, which has to date received over 300,000 views. The video argues that papaya leaf juice can be consumed at home to treat the dengue virus.

A popular health-related website in Pakistan, known as Marham, also posted an article on September 15, alleging that the leaf is helpful in curing mosquito-borne viral disease.

“The blood platelet count is substantially lowered by dengue fever, but papaya leaf extracts are known to help raise it,” the article states.

Fact

Geo Fact Check reached several health experts to check the veracity of the claim.

Dr Faisal Sultan, an infectious diseases physician and the chief executive officer at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore, said there was no “credible scientific evidence to prove" that papaya leaves juice is helpful in curing dengue.

“In most cases platelets improve with time and ascribing such an improvement to papaya is incorrect,” he added.

Geo Fact Check then shared online links with Dr Sultan of scientific studies which state that the juice is useful in the treatment of dengue. Dr. Sultan explained that those journals were basic science papers, thus he will not comment on them.

“The short version is that there is not enough scientific evidence from randomised controlled trials to support the use of papaya [leaves] juice to treat dengue,” he further told Geo Fact Check.

Dr Naseem Salahuddin, who heads the infectious disease department at Indus Hospital in Karachi, also agreed with Dr Sultan.

“Please don’t give it [papaya leaves juice] during dengue,” she told Geo Fact Check over the phone. “There is no benefit of it and it causes vomiting.”

Dr Salahuddin has been treating dengue patients since 2004. “In dengue, you should just give maximum fluid and it will cure [dengue],” she added.

Separately, Tahir Hussain, the professor of medicine at Baqai Medical University in Karachi, also stated that there was no scientific evidence to back the claim that papaya leaves juice benefits dengue patients.


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