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Unilever research finds mouthwash technology could help reduce coronavirus transmission


New in vitro test results1 show that a mouthwash containing CPC Technology is effective in reducing the viral load of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, by 99.9%2 after 30 seconds of rinsing.

A photo of mouthwash in a glass

As news breaks of a potentially effective vaccine against Covid-19, new preliminary test results provide further encouraging progress in the search for possible additional measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus3.

Microbac Laboratories, an independent and internationally accredited testing facility working on behalf of Unilever Research Laboratories, has found that rinsing with mouthwash containing CPC Technology for 30 seconds is effective in reducing the viral load of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, by 99.9%2.

CPC Technology is already widely used by the dental industry and is known for its antibacterial and anti-virus benefits. The preliminary lab test results show that, in addition to helping to prevent many oral diseases and problems, it could have an important role as an additional preventative measure to reduce the transmission of coronavirus3, when used as directed on the pack.

Eminent scientists have reviewed the Unilever research data and agree that it is in the public interest to share the results widely.

A diagram illustrating the effect CPC Technology in mouthwash can have on the virus that causes Covid-19

Building on existing research

The preliminary lab test results on SARS-CoV-2 build on existing Unilever research published on the biology research platform BioRxiv and follow ongoing discussions in the global medical and scientific community around the potential use of mouthwash as an additional measure to reduce the transmission of the virus.

Research continues, including into the duration of the effect, but a previous study4 on a small group of patients infected with Covid-19 suggest that viral load – the amount of virus particles a person is carrying – may be reduced in the mouth for up to six hours by using mouthwashes containing CPC Technology.

These preliminary test results showing the efficacy of CPC Technology against the SARS-CoV-2 virus are the latest in a large range of studies that are evaluating the efficacy of mouthwash technology against a number of viruses. In the tests we have done, only CPC Technology has to date shown consistently positive results.

“While research has previously been published into the effect of mouthwashes against surrogate coronaviruses, this is the first study in a laboratory to demonstrate that mouthwashes containing CPC can be effective against the actual virus responsible for Covid-19, and that they do indeed lower the viral load in recognised tests of mouthwash use,” says Dr Angela Rasmussen, Associate Research Scientist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in the US.

Dr Rasmussen adds: “Other research on the duration of effect of CPC in a mouthwash on bacteria and coronavirus would suggest that the reduction in infectious viral load is likely to be sustained over time. This effect has also been demonstrated on a small sample of Covid-19 patients.”

A diagram illustrating how the virus that causes Covid-19 is spread primarily through droplets of saliva

An additional preventative measure

The virus that causes Covid-19 spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose, which has been detected before, during and after the acute phase of illness, as well as in asymptomatic cases5. Therefore, reducing the viral load in the mouth could help to reduce transmission. The findings indicate that mouthwash could become an important addition to other protective measures like handwashing, physical distancing and mask wearing.

“Given its long history of safe use, and wide availability across the world, using a mouthwash that contains CPC Technology could offer a simple, effective and safe step for people to take alongside existing Covid-19 protection and prevention measures as recommended by their health authorities,” says Professor Iain Chapple, Head of Research at the Institute of Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK.

He adds: “The results are promising and warrant further exploration with in vitro and human clinical studies. These are important to understand the substantivity of the anti-viral effect, in other words how long it lasts for in vivo. People should also continue to take all other existing precautions against the spread of the virus, including physical distancing, hand and surface hygiene, and face coverings.”

Sharing results and raising awareness

While mouthwash containing CPC Technology is not a cure or a proven way to prevent the transmission of coronavirus, the results are promising, and something which the Unilever Oral Care team wanted to share, given the critical stage of the pandemic.

“The results of the study are a promising step on our journey to understanding how mouthwashes could help reduce the spread of coronavirus alongside other preventative measures. Although our research is ongoing, we are sharing the results now so people can consider introducing a CPC-based mouthwash into their daily routine,” confirms Dr Glyn Roberts, Head of Unilever Oral Care R&D.

He adds: “Mouthwash products from other companies containing CPC could also have a positive effect, and we are sharing the findings in the spirit of openness and collaboration. We encourage others to continue research into the role that oral care products may have as an additional preventative measure during the pandemic. We are committed to making CPC-based products available in as many countries as possible in the coming months6.”

1 In vitro test which attempts to simulate viral load in the mouth

2 Results subject to final audit

3 All references to coronavirus refer to ‘SARS-CoV-2’, the virus strain responsible for Covid-19

4 Efficacy of commercial mouth-rinses on SARS-CoV-2 viral load in saliva: randomised control trial in Singapore (non-Unilever research)

5 WHO: and L.L. Fernandes et al., Journal of Dental Research, 1–9

6 Excluding North America

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