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Mouthwash has the potential to protect against COVID-19, studies say, but there are caveats

Mouthwash is probably already a part of your daily routine, and no doubt you̵

7;re staring at it “fights 99.9 percent germs!” packaging for so long you forget to even look at it.With all the hand washing and masking we’re doing, it’s natural to wonder if that protective ability extends to coronavirus as well. Hollywood seems to think so – watch Camila Mendes and KJ Apa rinse off their mouthwash before kissing scenes on the set of Riverdale – so should the rest of us add this to our COVID-19 protection routine?

How mouthwash interacts with SARS-COV-2

The structure of a SARS-CoV-2 particle (the viral particle that causes COVID-19) is one of the main reasons that mouthwash might be effective against it, so let us get into the science for a minute. A SARS-CoV-2 particle is surrounded by a fatty (or lipid) membrane. Although this “envelope” can help the virus survive and infect other cells, it is also particularly vulnerable to soaps and detergents, which is why we have been told to wash our hands so much; the ingredients in the soap and detergent can break down that protective barrier.

What does this have to do with mouthwash? “Enveloped viruses such as the flu, herpes simplex and other coronaviruses are sensitive to common ingredients in mouthwash,” explained Valerie O’Donnell, PhD, director of the division of infections and immunity and co-director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute. at Cardiff University, in an interview with Healthline. In a study conducted by Dr. O’Donnell in June, researchers also noted that the throat and salivary glands may be major sites of virus replication and transmission in the early stages of COVID-19. Developing a way to safely target those areas could be a big step forward.

However, Dr. O’Donnell pointed out that research into protecting mouthwash against other diseases has been conducted through test-tube experiments, “not studies of viruses in the mouth, where their response may be different, and where little has been done. work”. Listerine claims on its site that Listerine-branded mouthwashes do not kill the coronavirus. And while research is coming to light on mouthwash and coronavirus, there’s still a lot we don’t know.

Related: Exposed to COVID-19? Here’s how you could soon be contagious, according to experts

How long are you contagious after exposure to the coronavirus?
How long are you contagious after exposure to the coronavirus?

Can mouthwash protect against COVID-19?

With these warnings, there is emerging evidence that mouthwash could reduce viral load (i.e. the amount of coronavirus particles) and potentially reduce the risk of short-term coronavirus transmission, according to an August study in Germany. In the study, the researchers mixed different types of mouthwash with virus particles and a substance meant to mimic saliva, then stirred each mixture for 30 seconds to simulate gargle. All of the blends, they found, later had fewer viral particles.

It wasn’t clear how long this effect would last or if it could be recreated outside of a lab, but the results look promising. The researchers noted that clinical trials were already underway in Germany and the United States.

To clarify, “gargling with a mouthwash cannot inhibit the production of viruses in cells,” said researcher Toni Meister. What it could do is reduce viral load in the short term, in the areas where “the greatest potential for infection comes from,” namely the mouth and throat. This could be very useful in certain situations, Meister added, such as at the dentist or during medical care for COVID-19 patients.

In other words, mouthwash is not a treatment for COVID-19, but it could potentially reduce the risk of infection and transmission to others. So gargle, but keep practicing other safety measures such as getting away socially, wearing a mask, and washing your hands often.

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