Health Officials: Silver Elixir Won't Stop Virus

CLEVELAND (AP) - A northeast Ohio company is marketing a silver potion to protect against West Nile virus, but medical officials warn it does not work.

In an advertisement in a weekly newspaper delivered to 43,000 homes in Geauga and Portage counties last week, the Simply Silver company suggests that drinking colloidal silver, or silver in a liquid solution, would guard against the mosquito-borne disease.

"Don't let mosquitoes get you down," the advertisement said. "Colloidal silver water recipe said to be anti-viral. Worried? Make your own for less than $3 a gallon."

Gerald Kayser, of the company based in Parkman Township about 35 miles southeast of Cleveland, refused to discuss the product Monday.

The company charges $27.90 for a kit that comes with a colloidal silver water recipe and a 99.9 percent silver wire, according to the advertisement.

Taking the elixir will do nothing except possibly give your skin a blue-gray tint, medial experts said.

"Silver has no proven medical benefit, period, and that is something that has been proven time and time again by the medical community," said Dr. Stephen Barrett of Allentown, Pa., a retired psychiatrist who investigates medical fraud. "But if you're selling a quack method (of treatment), you apply it to anything that comes along and worries people."

Ohio has five confirmed cases and 307 probable cases of the virus in humans, and it's suspected in 14 deaths, the state Health Department said.

Internet sites boast that silver is a virtual cure-all for 650 disorders, including AIDS, leukemia and diabetes.

Silver products can be sold as dietary supplements, but federal authorities have sent warnings to dozens of companies marketing colloidal silver over the Internet to cure, treat or prevent diseases. The effort is part of Operation Cure.All, a joint venture between the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other agencies.

"Colloidal silver is one of those items that seems to never really go away," said Rich Cleland, who oversees Operation Cure.All for the FTC. "There are a lot of outrageous claims being made, but what we know is this: There is no scientific evidence that (colloidal silver) has any therapeutic effect."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)