One of the easiest lines of defense against the spread of COVID-19 might be closer than we think.
Researchers at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry are conducting a clinical trial to test whether mouthwash can reduce a person’s risk of spreading COVID-19.
Enrollment for the trial was launched in late December 2020 and will continue through the spring semester. The principal investigators are Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque and Laura Jacox with help from experts on clinical research S.T. Phillips and Wendy Lamm.
Jacox said she and her colleagues were inspired to start studying mouth rinses based on several published lab experiments that had been done on commercially available mouth rinses. She said the data suggested that mouth rinses are able to stop or inactivate the virus.
"However, there have been very few and the studies that have been done are really tiny in humans," Jacox said. "Humans are not the same thing as a petri dish or a test tube. They're a lot more complex."
The research for the trial is being done with a larger study population and in a better-controlled environment than previous studies, Jacox said. The trial seeks to determine if the use of mouth rinses to kill viruses like COVID-19 can work in humans.
Adults over the age of 18 who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past seven days are eligible to enroll. All participants will receive a $50 gift card as compensation.
"They fill out a brief medical history and then we take a baseline saliva sample where they spit in a tube," Jacox said. "We then have them rinse with the mouth rinse for 30 to 60 seconds depending on which mouth rinse they get randomized to. Then we collect saliva at 15-minute intervals for the hour after the initial rinse."
Jacox said she is excited to be doing this research because it may lead to a big breakthrough that would allow people to go back to a much more normal lifestyle.
However, she emphasized that mouth rinses won't be a replacement for masks and social distancing.
Samantha Jhingree, research study coordinator, said she was interested in joining the study because she hopes to become a dentist.
"Finding a mouth rinse that can help limit the spread of COVID-19 in dental clinics, where mask-wearing is not possible, can have a big benefit for dentists and patients," Jhingree said. "I am thankful to be a part of such an important project that could lead to a big breakthrough."
Jacox suggests adding mouth rinses to COVID-19 prevention and hygiene routines. She hopes it could be used in settings like parties, bars or restaurants where mask-wearing isn't always possible.
Phillips said in a statement the findings of this trial might suggest that using mouth rinse could be more beneficial than previously realized in reducing virus load in the oral cavity. He anticipates more research will be done to understand how viral load in the mouth might affect risks for transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses.
"UNC students should know that this trial is only one of many UNC-led trials being conducted to combat the pandemic we’re faced with helping to overcome,'' Phillips said. "They should be encouraged that there are many bright and motivated UNC family working hard in their respective fields to lead this charge."
If you are interested in being a part of this clinical trial, call (984) 363-6243, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to enroll.
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