Group of scientists calls for urgent research to find out whether an easily available mouthwash could be effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus.
They conducted a review of scientific research in the area to assess whether the mouthwash might have the potential to reduce transmission in the early stages of Covid-19 infection.
SARS-CoV-2 is a virus enveloped with an external fatty membrane (lipid).
However, according to the researchers, so far there has been no discussion of the potential role of damaging this membrane as a possible means of inactivating the virus in the throat.
They say previous studies have shown that agents commonly found in mouthwashes – such as small amounts of ethanol, povidone-iodine and cetylpyridinium – can disrupt the lipid membranes of several enveloped viruses.
However, they point out that it is not yet known whether this could also be the case for this new coronavirus, and people should continue to follow government guidelines.
The researchers evaluated existing mouthwash formulations for their potential to disrupt the lipid envelope of SARS-CoV-2 – and suggested that several deserve clinical evaluation.
In publishing their review in the journal Function, the authors wrote: “We point out that previously published research on other enveloped viruses, including coronaviruses, directly supports the idea that more research is needed to find out whether flushing oral could be considered as a potential means of reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2. “
They said research to determine the potential of this approach could include evaluating existing – or specifically tailored – mouthwash formulations in the laboratory and then in clinical trials.
Population-based controlled trials could be undertaken with appropriate commercially available brands, the researchers added.
The lead author, Professor Valerie O’Donnell, co-director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute at Cardiff University, said: “So far, public health agencies in the United Kingdom have not considered safe use of mouthwashes – as with gargling.
“In test tube experiments and limited clinical studies, some mouthwashes contain enough known virucidal ingredients to effectively target lipids in similar enveloped viruses.
“What we don’t yet know is whether the existing mouthwashes are active against the lipid membrane of SARS-CoV-2.
“Our review of the literature suggests that research is urgently needed to determine its potential for use against this new virus.
“This is an under-researched area with a major clinical need – and we hope that research projects will be quickly mobilized to continue to assess this.”
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Professor O’Donnell added: “The mouthwash has not yet been tested against this new coronavirus.
“People should continue to follow preventive measures issued by the British government, including washing their hands frequently and maintaining social distance.
“This study suggests that other clinical studies may be useful based on the theoretical evidence.”
Researchers at Cardiff University School of Medicine, as well as the universities of Nottingham, Colorado, Ottawa, Barcelona, and the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, included virologists, lipid specialists, microbicides, and experts in health care, while industry partners provided information on the global formulation.