Mouthwashes Disrupt the COVID-19 Virus

Dentistry Today


Two types of mouthwash disrupt the COVID-19 virus under laboratory conditions, preventing it from replicating in a human cell, report researchers at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine.

Listerine and the prescription mouthwash chlorhexidine disrupted the virus within seconds after being diluted to concentrations that would mimic actual use. Further studies are needed to test real-life efficacy in human beings, the researchers said.

The study was conducted in a lab using concentrations of the mouthwash and the time it would take to contact tissues to replicate conditions found in the mouth, said Daniel H. Fine, DMD, senior author and chair of the school’s Department of Oral Biology.

Betadine, which includes povidone iodine, and Peroxal, which includes hydrogen peroxide, also showed promise in potentially providing some protection in preventing viral transmission. But only Listerine and chlorhexidine disrupted the virus with little impact on skin cells inside the mouth that provide a protective barrier against the virus.

“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,” said Fine.

The researchers studied the efficacy of mouthwash’s potential for preventing viral transmission 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,” said coauthor and assistant professor Eileen Hoskin, DMD.

Fine cautions the public against relying on mouthwash as a way to slow the spread until it is proven in clinical trials on human beings.

“The ultimate goal would be to determine whether rinsing two or three times a day with an antiseptic with active antiviral activity would have the potential to reduce the ability to transmit the disease. But this needs to be investigated in a real-world situation,” said Fine.

Previous research has shown various types of antiseptic mouthwashes can disrupt the novel coronavirus and temporarily prevent transmission, but this was one of the first studies that examined antiseptic rinse concentrations, time of contact, and the skin-cell killing properties that simulated oral conditions.

The study was conducted by a team of dental school scientists and a virologist at the Public Health Research Institute.

“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,” said Fine.

The study, “Differential Effects of Antiseptic Mouth Rinses on SARS-CoV-2 Infectivity In Vitro,” was published by Pathogens.

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