The study did not use human participants to test the hypothesis, and they did not test the effects of mouthwash on COVID-19
Credit: Getty

Experts are clearing up a wave of misinformation after reports of a study claimed mouthwash could "inactivate" the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

This week, headlines circulated the internet claiming that everyday alcohol-based mouthwashes could be effective in squashing the coronavirus — an assertion debunked by health experts. Several reports suggested mouth rinses "could" or "might" be effective, but the scientists say there's not enough applicable evidence.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, told The New York Times: “I don’t have a problem with using Listerine, but it’s not an antiviral.”

The study in question was published on Sept. 17 in the Journal of Medical Virology, and states that the over-the-counter products "may provide an additional level of protection against the virus." However, as the Times points out, it was focused on a common cold strain of coronavirus called "human coronavirus 229E (HCoV‐229E)" and not the novel coronavirus at the heart of the pandemic, "SARS-CoV-2," commonly known as COVID-19.

Additionally, the study had no human participants to test the hypothesis. Instead, researchers placed the oral products on samples of HCoV‐229E and found that "Listerine and Listerine‐like products were highly effective at inactivating infectious virus with greater than 99.9 percent even with a 30-second contact time."

“You can use mouthwash to reduce your own chance of getting gingivitis,” Rasmussen told the Times. “I don’t think it’s going to have a meaningful impact on your ability to transmit this virus.”

Credit: Getty

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In the conclusion, the study's authors noted that clinical trials "will be necessary to confirm the virucidal potential of these products and assess their ability to limit transmission of HCoV (HCoV‐229E) within the general population." They also specified that their results were in "respect to HCoV" (not COVID-19).

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Social distancing and wearing a mask are the most effective methods for stopping the spread of COVID-19 at this time. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control, said in July "if all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks, six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground."

The health official emphasized that wearing masks is scientifically proven to make a difference in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“We are not defenseless against this virus. We actually have one of the most powerful weapons you could ask for,” he said at the time. “The most powerful weapon we have that I know of is wearing face coverings.”

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