BISHKEK -- Four patients are being treated in hospitals in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, after consuming a toxic root that had been promoted by President Sadyr Japarov as an "effective" cure to treat COVID-19.
Doctors said on April 21 that Duishon Abdyldaev, 63, was being treated for poisoning with aconite root at the National Cardiology and Therapy Center, while three other patients whose identities were not disclosed were being treated for poisoning with the highly toxic root at the toxicology department of the Bishkek Trauma and Orthopedic Center.
The department's main physician, Ulan Ismanov, told RFE/RL that two of the patients were a married couple.
All four patients were rushed to hospital the previous day.
On April 15, Japarov said in a post on Facebook that the root had proven to be an "effective" method to treat COVID-19.
The entry contained a video showing men without protective equipment bottling a solution with extracts from the aconite root, warning that drinking the solution while it is cold might result in death.
The next day, Health Minister Alymkadyr Beishenaliev announced at a press conference that such a concoction had been given to hundreds of coronavirus-infected patients.
He also sipped from a cup containing the poisonous root's extract in front of journalists and said that "the solution is not dangerous to one's health," if it is consumed hot.
Facebook said it removed the post "as we do not allow anyone, including elected officials, to share misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm or spread false claims about how to cure or prevent COVID-19."
Japarov's press service said the account's owner removed the post "without external interference," adding that the possibility of using aconite root to treat COVID-19 will be studied by the country's medical experts.
Prosecutor-General Kurmankul Zulushev attended a parliament session on April 21, where he said that a preliminary investigation had been launched into a possible link between Beishenaliev's press conference and the poisoning of the four people.
"Four hundred individuals [with COVID-19] agreed to use the root and none of them was poisoned. A judicial assessment of the situation will be made due to the consequences of the situation," Zulushev said.
Beishenaliev said on April 21 that the four patients hospitalized consumed aconite root before he and Japarov promoted it.
The World Health Organization's mission in the former Soviet republic has harshly criticized the idea, saying that there's no proof aconite root is safe for the treatment of any illnesses, including coronavirus infection.
Several physicians who spoke with RFE/RL said the use of the root to treat COVID-19 violates Kyrgyzstan's law on public safety.
Aconite root is found in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang and some parts of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Some people use the root in herbal soups and meals, believing in its health benefits. But aconite roots contain aconitine, a cardiotoxin and neurotoxin. Consuming aconite root can lead to sickness or even death.