Correcting misconceptions on bad breath

Dr Lau Yee Ling & Dr Song Beng Kah


LETTER | In the past few years, we have seen numerous fake “medical news” posted on social media platforms, advertising certain “miracle” medicines or supplements that can cure some diseases, especially the chronic ones. This news has succeeded in influencing many of the public to believe or even purchase the “miracle” stuff for their family diagnosed with the diseases.

In the midst of popularity of such “miracle” supplements, we were recently alerted with one such “medical news” (in Bahasa Malaysia; entitled 'Nafas berbau adalah tanda parasit!'), which claims that a product called “INTOXIC” is effective in killing parasite in stomach (adalah cara terbaik bagi menyingkirkan parasit di dalam badan). This news piece is presented in the form of an “interview” by a reporter named “Ina Aminah” with a “head” of the “National Parasitology Research Centre” (Ketua Pusat Penyelidikan Parasitologi Kebangsaan) Dr Jien Wei Lim, who claims to have “27 years of experience in parasitology profession”.

We are very much concerned about the misinformation and misconceptions identified in the particular fake “medical news”, and we think these irresponsible fake medical news would need to be clarified and corrected for the safety and benefit of the public.

First and foremost, there is no such centre called Pusat Penyelidikan Parasitologi Kebangsaan or National Parasitology Research Centre in Malaysia. The so-called “Dr Jien Wei Lim with 27 years of experience in parasitology profession” must be a bogus figure created by the irresponsible marketing company.

Following this, we present here some of the main misconceptions concerning “bad breath” (halitosis) causes in the “news” and their corresponding clarifications:

1. Misconception: “According to several research studies, bad breath is caused by problems in the stomach, intestinal tracts, and 92 precent of the cases are caused by parasite in the body” (Mengikut keputusan beberapa kajian, bau mulut berpunca daripada masalah dengan perut, usus, dan bahawa dalam 92% kes, ia disebabkan oleh parasit yang hidup di dalam tubuh).

Clarification: No, there is no published research article showing “92 percent of the cases are caused by parasite in the body”. There are a number of possible causes of halitosis and the vast majority are related to oral hygiene. When particles of food are left in the mouth, their breakdown by bacteria produces foul-smelling, volatile sulfur compounds. Problems with holes in teeth or infection or gum disease can also cause halitosis. Smoking is another cause of bad mouth odour.

The best treatment for bad breath is to keep a good oral hygiene by regular brushing, flossing and hydration.

2. Misconception: “Approximately 92 percent of the patients died because of the parasitic infections” (kira-kira 92% orang meninggal dunia akibat penyakit yang disebabkan oleh jangkitan parasit di dalam badan).

Clarification: This is not true. Annually, only approximately 0.01 percent of people die of parasitic infections.

3. Misconception: “Malaysia has the highest rate of parasitic infection in the world” (Malaysia merupakan negara yang mengalami jangkitan parasit terbesar di dunia).

Clarification: Parasitic infections often result in high burdens of disease in low and middle income countries, particularly in the tropics and subtropic regions.

4. Misconception: “95 precent of the heart failure patients died from parasitic attack” (Dalam 95% kematian akibat kegagalan jantung adalah disebabkan oleh parasite).

Clarification: Heart disease is usually associated with unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking. In 2016, cardiovascular diseases represent 31 percent of all global deaths.

Of these cases, 85 percent are due to heart attack and stroke, not parasitic infections.

5. Misconception: “Parasitic infections in males can cause prostatitis, dysfunctional erectile, tumor, cystitis, kidney stones, and urinary bladder” (jangkitan parasit pada lelaki boleh menyebabkan masalah prostatitis, disfungsi erektil, tumor, sistitis, batu ginjal, dan pundi kencing).

Clarification: These health problems are blindly listed down without any knowledge of parasitic infections.

Our intention is to clarify misconception on this particular disease and its relationship with parasite, for the sake of the public's health. It is not intended to criticise any company or salesperson concerning the product they sell. We welcome open discussion with the public, including patients and their family on the issue, based on credible sources and scientific studies, and not in a way of picking up “medical news” from the social media or internet.

Dr Lau Yee Ling is associate professor from the Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya; and Dr Song Beng Kah is from the School of Science, Monash University Malaysia.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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