A screenshot of an alleged BBC article headlined ‘Black fungus: Indian scientist find link with cow urine 9,000 cases of rare infection [sic]’ is widely circulating on WhatsApp. The byline says that it has been authored by Soutik Biswas.

The screenshot is massively viral on Facebook. Alt News found at least 99 such posts.

It has also been shared on Twitter.

Morphed screenshot

We performed a Google search restricting the results to BBC’s website and found that no such article was available. Moreover, the headline carries grammatical errors which is unusual for an international English language media organisation.

“This is a fake post. We would urge audiences to check our website bbc.com/news,” BBC spokesperson told Alt News.

On May 9, BBC published an article on black fungus authored by Soutik Biswas. The article said that “Mucormycosis is a very rare infection. It is caused by exposure to mucor mould which is commonly found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying fruits and vegetables. Doctors believe mucormycosis, which has an overall mortality rate of 50%, may be being triggered by the use of steroids, a life-saving treatment for severe and critically ill Covid-19 patients”.

The following image compares the viral screenshot with a screengrab of the genuine article on BBC. We noticed 1) the font in the headline is different; 2) there no image icon of the author; 3) the line dividing the article and headline is darker in the viral screenshot.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, several BJP leaders continue to recommend unscientific treatments including cow urine as a cure for COVID-19. Recently BJP MLA Surendra Singh and BJP MP Pragya Thakur made headlines for recommending the same. In the past, cow urine has been recommended as a cure for cancer. Dr Donald Hensrud of the Mayo Clinic told ABC News in 2009, “I think I’m perfectly comfortable in saying that I’m aware of no data that cow’s urine — or any other species’ urine — holds any promise … in treating or preventing cancer.” There is no peer-reviewed study that infers cow urine as an effective treatment for diseases.

A doctored screenshot of BBC’s website was shared to falsely claim that the outlet wrote an article headlined ‘Black fungus: Indian scientist find link with cow urine 9,000 cases of rare infection’.

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About the Author

Archit is a graduate in English Literature from The MS University of Baroda. He also holds a post-graduation diploma in journalism from the Asian College of Journalism. Since then he has worked at Essel Group's English news channel at WION as a trainee journalist, at S3IDF as a fundraising & communications officer and at The Hindu as a reporter. At Alt News, he works as a fact-checking journalist.