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Mouthwash Touted as a Virus Killer


Wash your hands, wear a mask and don’t forget to gargle with mouthwash.

That is the message Unilever PLC and Colgate-Palmolive Co. are carefully starting to push after research they commissioned showed that certain types of mouthwash and toothpaste could potentially help deactivate the virus that causes Covid-19.

Now, Unilever is launching mouthwash brands in new markets, while Colgate has shared the results of its study with dentists.

Reducing virus particles in the mouth could help fight against the pandemic, the companies said, because Covid-19 can be spread through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. Both companies said the mouthwashes dissolve the outer protective layer of virus particles, preventing them from attaching to cells and infecting them.

But based on tests so far they can’t definitively say how long the benefit would last or what impact coughing would have. That makes it hard to judge how useful oral-hygiene products could be in curbing transmission.

Unilever said an October lab-based study it commissioned found mouthwash containing cetylpyridium chloride, or CPC—an ingredient used by dentists for its anti-bacterial properties—reduced SARS-CoV-2 particles by 99.9% after 30 seconds of rinsing.

“While we are clear that this is not a cure or proven way to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, the results are very promising,” said Glyn Roberts, Unilever’s head of research and development for oral care.

Early in the pandemic, scientists from Cardiff University in Wales and other institutions called for more research into the potential role of mouthwash in fighting Covid-19. Previous studies , they said, had shown that ingredients commonly found in mouthwashes could deactivate other viruses. Mouthwash makers say sales have risen this year amid broader demand for hygiene products.

Angela Rasmussen, an associate research scientist at Columbia University’s Center of Infection and Immunity who reviewed the results of the study commissioned by Unilever, said the findings were promising but results from human trials are needed.

Meanwhile, Unilever is launching mouthwash with CPC in a string of new markets, from Italy and France to India and Indonesia.

Colgate, the world’s largest toothpaste maker, said its lab tests, conducted by Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, also showed some kinds of toothpaste, mouthwash and mouth spray can virtually eliminate the virus that causes Covid-19.

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