HERSHEY, Pa. — As the world waits for a vaccine to COVID-19, a new study finds there may be a way to slow the spread sitting in your medicine cabinet. Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine say nasal and oral rinses like mouthwash can deactivate human coronaviruses. Their study concludes these common, over-the-counter products should have the same effect on SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.
The group tested various products including one-percent baby shampoo, a neti pot, peroxide sore-mouth cleansers, and mouthwash, seeing how each would lower the viral load of coronavirus strains in a patient’s mouth. Their findings reveal most of these products effectively shut down virus particles in less than two minutes. Researchers hope they may also lower the chances of COVID infection among people carrying the virus.
“While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed,” says Craig Meyers, distinguished professor of microbiology, immunology, obstetrics, and gynecology in a university release. “The products we tested are readily available and often already part of people’s daily routines.”
Both mouthwash and baby shampoo render 99.9% of coronaviruses inactive
Meyers and his team replicated the reaction between virus cells in mouths and noses when they encounter rinses and mouthwashes. Health officials say these are the two major points where coronavirus enters and exits the body, which explains the emphasis on face mask protection.
Researchers introduced their virus solutions to all of the cleansing products for 30 seconds, one minute, and two minutes. Meyers explains that the outer envelope of their viruses and SARS-CoV-2 are so genetically similar that the results should mean COVID-19 would become inactive after exposure to rinses as well.
The results reveal one-percent baby shampoo solution deactivated more than 99.9 percent of human coronaviruses after two minutes of contact. Researchers say doctors, who regularly have contact with infected patients, often use baby shampoo to rinse out their sinuses.
Even better, the results find several mouthwash and gargling products leave 99.9 percent of coronaviruses inactive after just 30 seconds. Some of these rinses stopped 99.99 percent of coronavirus.
“People who test positive for COVID-19 and return home to quarantine may possibly transmit the virus to those they live with,” Meyers adds. “Certain professions including dentists and other health care workers are at a constant risk of exposure. Clinical trials are needed to determine if these products can reduce the amount of virus COVID-positive patients or those with high-risk occupations may spread while talking, coughing or sneezing. Even if the use of these solutions could reduce transmission by 50%, it would have a major impact.”
Researchers will now be looking to expand their study to clinical trials involving COVID-19-positive patients.
The study appears in the Journal of Medical Virology.