A group of scientists in the U.K. are calling for more research into the possibility that mouthwash could be used to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. However, the World Health Organization already there is no evidence mouthwash could protect someone from contracting the virus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. There is currently no known vaccine for the virus.
Cardiff University researchers published a new paper in the journal Function this week, exploring the effect mouthwash may have on the virus. They note the coronavirus is surrounded by a fatty membrane, and the membranes of similar pathogens had been disrupted by ingredients found in mouthwashes, notes Yahoo News. These ingredients include ethanol, povidone-iodine and cetylpyridinium. The scientists noted that gargling mouthwash could cause the virus to go inactive in the throat, stopping its spread through coughs and sneezes. The scientists cautioned there is no evidence to say this would work with the coronavirus as well, but there has not been any talk about investigating it.
"Safe use of mouthwash — as in gargling — has so far not been considered by public health bodies in the U.K.," Professor Valerie O'Donnell, the lead author, wrote. "In test tube experiments and limited clinical studies, some mouthwashes contain enough of known virucidal ingredients to effectively target lipids in similar viruses. What we don't know yet is whether existing mouthwashes are active against the lipid membrane of [the coronavirus]."
O'Donnell argued that "research is needed as a matter of urgency" to learn if mouthwash could be used to fight the virus. "This is an under-researched area of major clinical need and we hope research projects will be quickly mobilised to further evaluate this," she wrote.
Back in February, the World Health Organization noted there is "no evidence" that using mouthwash will protect you from the coronavirus. "Some brands of mouthwash can eliminate certain microbes in the saliva in your mouth," the agency noted. "However, this does not mean they protect you from 2019-nCoV infection." Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Listerine, also has a disclaimer on its website, noting that the product "has not been tested against the coronavirus and is not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19."
The WHO's page on myths about the coronavirus points out that there are still not drugs "licensed for the treatment or prevention." The WHO warns "misuse of hydroxychloroquine can cause serious side effects and illness and even lead to death." During his testimony before a Senate panel Tuesday, White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci noted, "There's no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be effective."