Hershey, PA—Social distancing and wearing a face mask are recommended to decrease transmission of COVID-19 during the pandemic. But what about situations, such as at the dentist’s office, where that is not always possible?

A new study advises that several commonly available healthcare products have significant virucidal properties with respect to the novel coronavirus in situations where social distancing and/or mask wearing are not possible.

Specifically, the report in the Journal of Medical Virology states that certain oral antiseptics and mouthwashes might have the ability to inactivate human coronaviruses. Penn State College of Medicine–led researchers explain some of the products might be useful for reducing the viral load and help to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The products evaluated include a 1% solution of baby shampoo, a neti pot, peroxide sore-mouth cleansers, and mouthwashes. Researchers determined that several of the nasal and oral rinses had a strong ability to neutralize human coronavirus, which suggests that these products might have the potential to reduce the amount of virus spread by people who are COVID-19-positive.

“While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed,” said lead author Craig Meyers, PhD, distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology at Penn State. “The products we tested are readily available and often already part of people’s daily routines.”

Results indicate that the 1% baby shampoo solution, which is often used by head and neck doctors to rinse the sinuses, inactivated greater than 99.9% of human coronavirus after a 2-minute contact time. Several of the mouthwash and gargle products also were effective at inactivating the infectious virus.

In fact, researchers report, many products inactivated greater than 99.9% of virus after only 30 seconds of contact time, and some inactivated 99.99% of the virus after 30 seconds.

“Nasal rinses and mouthwashes, which directly impact the major sites of reception and transmission of human coronaviruses (HCoV), may provide an additional level of protection against the virus,” according to the report. “Common over‐the‐counter nasal rinses and mouthwashes/gargles were tested for their ability to inactivate high concentrations of HCoV using contact times of 30 s, 1 min, and 2 min. Reductions in titers were measured by using the tissue culture infectious dose 50 (TCID50) assay. A 1% baby shampoo nasal rinse solution inactivated HCoV greater than 99.9% with a 2‐min contact time. Several over‐the‐counter mouthwash/gargle products including Listerine and Listerine‐like products were highly effective at inactivating infectious virus with greater than 99.9% even with a 30‐s contact time.”

Dr. Meyers said the next step to expand upon these results is to design and conduct clinical trials that evaluate whether products like mouthwashes can effectively reduce viral load in COVID-19-positive patients. “People who test positive for COVID-19 and return home to quarantine may possibly transmit the virus to those they live with,” he said. “Certain professions including dentists and other health care workers are at a constant risk of exposure. Clinical trials are needed to determine if these products can reduce the amount of virus COVID-positive patients or those with high-risk occupations may spread while talking, coughing or sneezing. Even if the use of these solutions could reduce transmission by 50%, it would have a major impact.”

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