A new research has suggested that mouthwash is capable of providing some extent of protection against COVID-19 by killing the novel coronavirus before it can infect human cells.
The study, which was published on Thursday in the journal Function, has provoked calls by scientists for urgent research into whether normal mouthwash, readily available in stores, could be effective in reducing the virus transmission in the early stages of infection.
The calls were after a team of researchers from Cardiff University assessed the importance of the throat and saliva glands in the replication and transmission of the novel coronavirus, making reference to their feeding patterns in the early stages the disease.
The study authors stated that their findings demonstrated that mouthwash has the potential to destroy the outermost layer of the virus, preventing it from replicating in the mouth and throat before the infection fully kicks in.
— Cardiff University (@cardiffuni) May 14, 2020
They, however, noted that further research into mouthwash chemicals could be beneficial.
“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,” said Valerie O’Donnell, the lead researcher.
Why do these scientists think mouthwash can be effective?
Backed by virologists and lipid specialists from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine alongside other healthcare experts from the universities of Nottingham, Colorado, Ottawa, Barcelona, and Cambridge’s Babraham Institute, the study questioned current convictions about mouthwash.
On the basis that coronaviruses classify as “enveloped viruses”, ones that are covered by a layer of fat vulnerable to certain chemicals, the scientists claimed that mouthwash could protect against COVID-19 by killing the virus before it infects human cells through lipid membrane disruption.
According to the researchers, the ingredients of dental mouthwash, including chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, hydrogen peroxide, and povidone-iodine, all have the potential to prevent infection by tackling the one thing that helps these viruses bind to and enter cells.
“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,” they noted.
Mouthwashes and COVID-19: What does the WHO think?
As plausible as this new-found idea seems ahead of further scientific evaluation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had earlier debunked claims that had attributed preventive benefits to the use of mouthwash.
The premier health agency also said that there has been no empirical evidence to back these claims so far.
“There’s no evidence that mouthwash will protect you from infection with the new coronavirus. Some brands of mouthwash eliminate certain microbes for a few minutes in the saliva. However, this does not mean they protect you from 2019-nCoV infection,” WHO had stated in February.
“To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care.”
Protecting yourself from COVID-19?
The WHO had listed the symptoms of COVID-19 to include fever, tiredness, and dry cough but some others have reported aches, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and diarrhoea. Symptoms might begin gradually, yet, other infected individuals might become asymptomatic.
It is estimated that about 80 percent of people who suffer the deadly virus recover from the disease without needing special treatment. It is also understood that one out of every six people who get infected with COVID-19 becomes seriously ill with breathing difficulty that requires assistive care.
Following that there is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19 just yet, health experts have emphasised that the best way to prevent the illness is to avoid getting exposed to infected patients, maintain physical distancing, wash and sanitise hands regularly, and seek medical attention if need be.
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