No, Mouthwash Will Not Save You From the Coronavirus

Even if people coated the inside of their mouths with a coronavirus-killing chemical, a substantial amount of the virus would still remain in the body.


By Katherine J. Wu

A rash of provocative headlines this week offered a tantalizing idea: that mouthwash can “inactivate” coronaviruses and help curb their spread.

The stories sprang from a new study that found that a coronavirus that causes common colds — not the one that causes Covid-19 — could be incapacitated in a laboratory when doused with mouthwash. The study’s authors concluded that the products they tested “may provide an additional level of protection against” the new coronavirus.

But outside experts warned against overinterpreting the study’s results, which might not have practical relevance to the new coronavirus that has killed more than 220,000 Americans. Not only did the study not investigate this deadly new virus, but it also did not test whether mouthwash affects how viruses spread from person to person.

“I don’t have a problem with using Listerine,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. “But it’s not an antiviral.”

The study, which was published last month in the Journal of Medical Virology, looked only at a coronavirus called 229E that causes common colds — not the new coronavirus, which goes by the formal name of SARS-CoV-2, and causes far more serious disease. Researchers can study SARS-CoV-2 only in high-security labs after undergoing rigorous training.

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