Scientists in Wales will launch a study this week into whether using mouthwash could help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Covid-19 patients at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff will take part in new research to find out if it has the potential to reduce levels of the virus in saliva.
SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus with an outer fatty (lipid) membrane. Previous studies are said to show that agents usually found in mouthwash – such as low amounts of ethanol, povidone-iodine and cetylpyridinium – could disrupt the membranes of other lipid viruses.
Dr David Thomas said: “We are very keen to start this much-needed clinical trial as our review of the literature indicated we need to look deeper into the possible positive impact that mouthwashes may play on the transmission of Covid-19.
“We believe this is an exciting opportunity to determine whether a compound that can inactivate an enveloped virus in a test tube may work in humans, actively shedding the virus in the mouth and throat.”
The launch of the study comes after a group of scientists in May called for urgent research into the use of readily available mouthwash to reduce the spread of the virus.
Publishing their review in the Function journal, the authors wrote: “We highlight that already published research on other enveloped viruses, including coronaviruses, directly supports the idea that further research is needed on whether oral rinsing could be considered as a potential way to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”
Lead author Professor Valerie O’Donnell, co-director of Cardiff University’s Systems Immunity Research Institute, said at the time: “Safe use of mouthwash – as in gargling – has so far not been considered by public health bodies in the UK.”
She added: “This is an under-researched area of major clinical need – and we hope that research projects will be quickly mobilised.”
The completed research will be peer reviewed before it is published in around six months’ time.