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A swirl of mouthwash may be good for more than minty-fresh breath. A few recent studies suggest that certain oral rinses have the potential to help reduce transmission of the new coronavirus, though more research is needed to determine just how big of a role they can play in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Researchers out of Penn State College of Medicine tested several oral and nasal rinses for their ability to inactivate a human coronavirus — not the one that causes COVID-19, but its cold-causing cousin that is similar in structure. All coronaviruses are surrounded by a membrane that is susceptible to soaps, alcohol and certain chemicals, and destroying this membrane is key to inactivating the virus.
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What they found is that a few common over-the-counter products — including Crest Pro-Health, Listerine Ultra, Listerine Antiseptic and similar store-brand antiseptics — killed over 99.9 percent of the human coronavirus after 30 seconds of exposure in a laboratory setting. A 1 percent solution of baby shampoo, which is often recommended by doctors to rinse the sinuses, also mostly inactivated the virus after two minutes. The study was published in the Journal of Medical Virology.
What's more, researchers in Germany found that a few commercially available oral rinses, including an iso-Betadine mouthwash and Listerine Cool Mint, “significantly reduced viral infectivity” of SARS-CoV-2 — the coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic — “to undetectable levels” after an exposure time of 30 seconds in a laboratory setting. The study appears in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.
The authors of both peer-reviewed reports suggest that while these easily accessible products won't treat COVID-19 or protect you from getting infected, they could help reduce the amount of virus a person with COVID-19 has in the mouth and nose, which are major points of entry and transmission for the coronavirus. And, along with other preventive efforts such as face masks and hand hygiene, they could serve as one more tool to help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, which has so far infected nearly 45 million people worldwide.