Listerine, certain mouthwashes may deactivate COVID-19 in seconds

NEWARK, N.J. — As millions wait for their turn to get the coronavirus vaccine, could a way to curb the pandemic being sitting in your medicine cabinet? Researchers from Rutgers University find certain mouthwashes disrupt COVID’s ability to replicate in human cells.

Their study finds rinsing with Listerine and prescription mouthwashes like Chlorhexidine deactivate the virus within seconds during lab experiments. Study authors now hope to investigate whether rinsing your mouth three times a day with these products could reduce the spread of coronavirus in reality.

“The ultimate goal would be to determine whether rinsing two or three times a day with an antiseptic agent with active anti-viral activity would have the potential to reduce the ability to transmit the disease,” says study author Dr. Daniel Fine in a university release. “But this needs to be investigated in a real-world situation.”

Two other mouthwashes also showed promise in potentially preventing the spread of the virus. These products are Betadine, which contains povidone iodine, and Peroxal, which contains hydrogen peroxide. However, only Listerine and Chlorhexidine tackle the virus with little impact to skin cells inside the mouth which provide a protective barrier against viruses.

“Both Povidone-iodine and Peroxal caused significant skin cell death in our studies, while both Listerine and Chlorhexidine had minimal skin-cell killing at concentrations that simulated what would be found in daily use,” adds Dr. Fine, the chair of the Department of Oral Biology at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine.

Promising results may help protect dentists from COVID

The team studied the potential in mouthwash for preventing viral transmission. Their aim was to better understand how dental providers can be protected from aerosols exhaled by patients.

“As dentists, we’re right there in a patient’s face. We wanted to know if there’s something that might lower the viral load,” study co-author Dr. Eileen Hoskin says.

Various types of antiseptic mouthwashes can disrupt the novel coronavirus and temporarily prevent transmission, according to previous findings. Despite the new results, researchers warn the public against relying on mouthwash as a way to slow COVID’s spread. They add scientists still need to prove their findings in clinical trials involving humans.

This study is one of the first to examine antiseptic rinse concentrations, time of contact, and the skin-cell killing properties that simulate oral conditions.

“Since the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 enters primarily through the oral and nasal cavity, oral biologists should be included in these studies because they have an in-depth understanding of oral infectious diseases,” Dr. Fine concludes.

The findings appear in the journal Pathogens.

SWNS writer Laura Sharman contributed to this report.