Mouthwash found to kill coronavirus within seconds

Catriona Harvey-Jenner, Jennifer Savin
·4-min read
Photo credit: AtlasStudio - Getty Images
Photo credit: AtlasStudio - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Fancy some food for thought for the week? A team of scientists have found that mouthwash could help with destroying the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that leads to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus, the cause of the pandemic that's seen us socially distanced from our friends and family for much of the year now).

A report from Cardiff University describes how scientific tests recently discovered that some over-the-counter mouthwashes had the ability to kill coronavirus within 30 seconds of being exposed to it in a laboratory. Specifically, mouthwashes containing at least 0.07% cetypyridinium chloride (CPC) were found to show "promising signs" of helping to fight the virus.

Now, researchers will conduct a clinical trial which will deduce whether or not mouthwash can be just as effective at eradicating the virus in a patient's saliva, as it is in a laboratory environment. The trial will be carried out on COVID-19 patients at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, and results are expected to be published in early 2021.

"Whilst these mouthwashes very effectively eradicate the virus in the laboratory, we need to see if they work in patients and this is the point of our ongoing clinical study," said Professor David Thomas, who will be leading the 12-week study.

Photo credit: Tharakorn Arunothai / EyeEm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tharakorn Arunothai / EyeEm - Getty Images

The professor clarified that the new study "won't give us any direct evidence on viral transmission between patients" but that it will, however, "show us how long any effects last, following a single administration of the mouthwash in patients with COVID-19."

If results show mouthwash has a similar capability to kill the virus inside a patient's mouth, expert Dr Nick Claydon says that certain mouthwashes "could become an important addition to people's routine, together with hand washing, physical distancing and wearing masks, both now and in the future."

This isn't the first time Cardiff University has looked into mouthwash as a possible weapon against COVID; earlier this year a team of researchers from the university’s School of Medicine (along with the universities of Nottingham, Colorado, Ottawa, Barcelona and Cambridge’s Babraham Institute), theorised that it could play an important role.

Here's how mouthwash is thought to work against coronavirus: SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus) is 'enveloped' with an outer fatty membrane, and mouthwash has the capacity to damage said outer layer as a method of destroying the virus in the throat. Swish, swish bish, indeed.

Photo credit: geckophotos - Getty Images
Photo credit: geckophotos - Getty Images

Previous studies had suggested active ingredients commonly found in mouthwashes (e.g. small amounts of ethanol, povidone-iodine and cetylpyridinium), could disrupt the lipid membranes of several enveloped viruses, and so researchers wanted to discover whether the same could be said for this specific strain of coronavirus the world is contending with. The latest results show it certainly is possible in a lab environment - now we just need to see if it could work as effectively inside the human body.

Professor Valerie O’Donnell, the original study's lead, said back in May: "Safe use of mouthwash - as in gargling - has so far not been considered by public health bodies in the UK. In test tube experiments and limited clinical studies, some mouthwashes contain enough of known virucidal ingredients to effectively target lipids in similar enveloped viruses."

Back in February, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that there was "no evidence that using mouthwash will protect you from infection with the new coronavirus. Some brands of mouthwash can eliminate certain microbes for a few minutes in the saliva in your mouth. However, this does not mean they protect you from 2019-nCoV infection." Hopefully, however, continued research in the area by the Cardiff University team might determine whether such advice could be reversed.

Until we know more, however, we should continue to follow the preventive measures issued by the government, such as thoroughly and regularly washing hands, honouring the current lockdown, and sticking to the social distancing rules when we do venture outside the house.

Watch this space...

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