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14 May 2020 12:35

Smoking Research Daniel Ricciardo

The simple bathroom item that could help reduce the spread of coronavirus and why Cardiff University wants more research into it

An international peer-reviewed study led by Cardiff University said shop-bought oral rinses may be able to damage the virus "membrane" and reduce infection rates. The suggestion is based on a review of existing studies which showed that chemicals in mouthwash can disrupt membranes of other viruses. Lead author Professor Valerie O'Donnell said: "Safe use of mouthwash – as in gargling – has so far not been considered by public health bodies in the UK. A group of scientists is calling for urgent research into whether readily available mouthwash could be effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus. They conducted a review of the scientific research in the area to assess whether mouthwash could have the potential to reduce transmission in the early stages of Covid-19 infection.

The researchers assessed existing mouthwash formulations for their potential ability to disrupt the SARS-CoV-2 lipid envelope – and suggested that several deserve clinical evaluation. 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: "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. "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. "People should continue to follow the preventive measures issued by the UK Government, including washing hands frequently and maintaining social distance.

The researchers from Cardiff University's School of Medicine, along with the universities of Nottingham, Colorado, Ottawa, Barcelona and Cambridge's Babraham Institute, included virologists, lipid specialists, microbicide and healthcare experts, while industry partners provided global formulation information. Scientists are calling for urgent research into whether normal mouthwash, readily available in stores, could be effective in reducing coronavirus transmission in the early stages of infection. The research, led by Cardiff University, examined whether mouthwash could damage the outer lipid (fatty) membrane that envelopes the virus - and therefore inactivate it. The next steps would include examining both existing and new formulations of mouthwash in labs and then in clinical trials, followed by population-based trials. Lead author Professor Valerie O'Donnell, co-director of Cardiff University's Systems Immunity Research Institute, said: "Safe use of mouthwash - as in gargling - has so far not been considered by public health bodies in the UK.

She added: "What we don't know yet is whether existing mouthwashes are active against the lipid membrane of SARS-CoV-2. Professor O'Donnell urged people to continue to follow the preventive measures issued by the UK government, including washing hands frequently and maintaining social distance, stressing that the theory around mouthwash is not yet proven. The research has been published today in the journal Function and was carried out by teams from Cardiff University's School of Medicine and the universities of Nottingham, Colorado, Ottawa, Barcelona and Cambridge's Babraham Institute. A Welsh university has called for urgent research into whether mouthwash could be effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus. Coronavirus, referred to in the universities' study as Sars-CoV-2, is described as an "enveloped virus" with an outer fatty (lipid) membrane.

They say previous studies have shown that agents commonly found in mouthwashes - such as low amounts of ethanol, povidone-iodine and cetylpyridinium - could disrupt the lipid membranes of several enveloped viruses. The researchers assessed existing mouthwash formulations for their potential ability to disrupt the Covid-19 lipid envelope - and suggested that "several" deserve clinical evaluation. The authors state: "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." They said research to determine the potential of this approach could include evaluating existing - or specifically-tailored - formulations of mouthwash in the lab and then in clinical trials. Lead author Professor Valerie O'Donnell, co-director of Cardiff University's Systems Immunity Research Institute, 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. "People should continue to follow the preventive measures issued by the UK Government, including washing hands frequently and maintaining social distance.