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Study indicates mouthwash could help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by reducing amount of virus in mouth, throat

Mouthwash is not a substitute for masks

DETROIT – COVID-19 primarily spreads through infected droplets and aerosols that are coughed, sneezed and exhaled.

At the start of an infection, most of the infected droplets come from the upper respiratory tract, like the nose, mouth and throat. Now, research suggests it might be possible to kill the virus there -- reducing your ability to spread it.

READ: U-M president: Social gatherings ‘main cause of recent COVID-19 spread on campus’

The idea of reducing the amount of infectious material from the upper respiratory tract and mouth isn’t new. In fact, the American Dental Association has recommended the use of a 1.5 percent hydrogen peroxide mouth rinse before dental procedures -- even without definitive data to support the recommendation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also acknowledges the lack of published information and simple states that a preprocedural mouth rinse “may” reduce the level of oral microorganisms.

A new paper by researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine, published in the Journal of Medical Virology, found certain oral antiseptics and mouthwashes have the ability to kill human coronaviruses. That suggests these products could reduce the amount of virus in the mouth or throat -- reducing the spread of infection.

Researchers didn’t test the antiseptics against SARS-CoV-2 specifically. Their findings support other research previously published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases that found similar antiseptics were effective when tested against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It’s important to note that these studies only show the virus can be inactivated by the mouth rinses. Further studies are underway to test the effect in patients who are infected with COVID-19.

While we wait for a vaccine, this may be another simple and promising way to decrease the amount of virus an infected person might emit. Although, it’s important to note -- mouthwashes or gargles are not a substitute for masks or any other proven way to reduce spread.

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