Urgent research must be done into whether mouthwash could be effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus, scientists have said.
The study, published on Thursday in Function, a science journal, points to research that demonstrates the importance of the throat and saliva glands in the replication and transmission of the coronavirus.
Sars-Cov-2, which causes Covid-19, is an enveloped virus with a fatty, or lipid, membrane. The study’s authors said there has so far been “no discussion” about whether damaging this membrane could play a role in stopping the virus in the throat.
Previous research has shown that mouthwash can damage the membrane in other viruses.
The authors stressed that it is not yet known whether this would be the case for the coronavirus.
Professor Valerie O’Donnell, lead author of the study, said: “Safe use of mouthwash – as in gargling – has so far not been considered by public health bodies in the UK.
“In test tube experiments and limited clinical studies, some mouthwashes contain enough of known virucidal ingredients to effectively target lipids in similar enveloped viruses.
“What we don’t know yet is whether existing mouthwashes are active against the lipid membrane of Sars-CoV-2.
“Our review of the literature suggests that research is needed as a matter of urgency to determine its potential for use against this new virus.
“This is an under-researched area of major clinical need – and we hope that research projects will be quickly mobilised to further evaluate this.”
Professor O’Donnell added: “Mouthwash has not been tested against this new coronavirus yet.
“People should continue to follow the preventive measures issued by the UK government, including washing hands frequently and maintaining social distance.
“This study suggests further clinical studies could be worthwhile based on the theoretical evidence.”