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Mouthwash could reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, study finds

Researchers say this isn’t a viable treatment option for those already infected with the virus

Photo (c) AndreyPopov - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from Ruhr University found that mouthwash could be an effective way for consumers to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The ingredients found in many easily accessible mouthwashes were found to be effective in clearing the throat and mouth of germs, but they weren’t necessarily effective as a protective agent or as a treatment option for those who have already contracted the virus. 

“Gargling with a mouthwash cannot inhibit the production of viruses in the cells, but could reduce the viral load in the short term where the greatest potential for infection comes from, namely in the oral cavity and throat -- and this could be used in certain situations, such as at the dentist or during the medical care of COVID-19 patients,” said researcher Toni Meister. 

How can mouthwash be effective?

The researchers explained that the mouth and throat can contain the most infectious coronavirus germs, so they sought to determine if gargling with mouthwash would be a successful approach to lowering the germ count. 

To determine the efficacy of mouthwash in reducing the spread of COVID-19, the researchers tested eight different mouthwashes that all contained different ingredients. 

The researchers started by combining a sample of each mouthwash with coronavirus-infected cells. The mixture was shaken for 30 seconds, which is typically how long consumers would gargle with mouthwash. 

The next step was for the researchers to perform a cell culture test, which allowed them to assess whether infectious cells cropped up following the gargling process. If the mouthwash worked, no new COVID-19 cells would multiply; however, if it didn’t work, the virus would continue to grow. 

Ultimately, mouthwash was effective in keeping COVID-19 at bay. In all eight samples, the mouthwash successfully killed all coronavirus-related germs. In fact, three of the mouthwashes eliminated all traces of the virus after less than one minute of “gargling.”

As Meister explained, mouthwash can’t be used to treat patients already diagnosed with coronavirus. However, these findings are important because they show that mouthwash can be effective at lowering the risk of transmission in shorter spans of time. 

The researchers are currently doing more work to better determine the effect mouthwash can have on COVID-19, and they plan to see if there are any long-term applications. 

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