Mouthwash Being Investigated As A Possible Way To Slow The Spread Of Coronavirus

Aaron Homer

Mouthwash, the humble everyday product that's on just about every bathroom counter in the country, is being investigated as a possible way of stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus, Yahoo Life reported.

A team from Cardiff University in Wales is looking into the possibility that the consumer product's known potential antiviral properties could be effective against the spread of the pathogen, which is currently responsible for a global pandemic.

Depending on the brand, mouthwashes contain a number of chemicals -- such as ethanol, povidone-iodine, and cetylpyridinium -- that kill the bacteria which cause bad breath, as well as masking the smells that emerge from the mouth with mint or menthol oils.

It's those anti-bacterial properties that have caught the interest of the Welsh team. Specifically, mouthwash kills those germs by effectively destroying them from the outside, dissolving the lipid membrane that surrounds the bacterial cell, the University of California - Santa Barbara explained.

Viruses are contained in a similar lipid "shell," so the Welsh scientists want to look into whether or not the same mechanism that allows mouthwash to kill bacteria in the mouth and throat can also be used to kill viruses -- specifically the novel coronavirus.

Professor Valerie O'Donnell, lead researcher of the Welsh team, said that -- in some lab trials -- mouthwash has shown to be effective against other viruses.

"In test tube experiments and limited clinical studies, some mouthwashes contain enough of known virucidal ingredients to effectively target lipids in similar viruses," she wrote.

Specifically, ethanol has been shown to kill at least two other viruses in the coronavirus family, of which SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the current pandemic, colloquially referred to as the "novel coronavirus") is one. Previous data shows that ethanol kills viruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Since it works against other viruses in the coronavirus family, O'Donnell has wondered if it can work against SARS-CoV-2 as well.

"What we don't know yet is whether existing mouthwashes are active against the lipid membrane of [the coronavirus]," she wrote, noting there's an urgent need for more research into the matter.

"This is an under-researched area of major clinical need and we hope research projects will be quickly mobilised to further evaluate this," she stated, on behalf of her team.

For now, O'Donnell noted social distancing and hand washing are still the best practices for fighting the spread of the coronavirus and should still be practiced.