Science

Listerine And Sexually Transmitted Illnesses: Does Gargling Really Slow Down The Spread Of Gonorrhea?

By Christie Abagon , Dec 20, 2016 03:16 PM EST
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Gonorrhea is a disease transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person.  It passes from person to person through unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex.  A new study shows that a commercial mouthwash brand kills gonorrhea bacteria.

Trial Was Done To Test Listerine's Claim That Their Mouthwash Can Cure Gonorrhea

When mouthwash brand, Listerine, was concocted in 1879, inventor Dr. Joseph Lawrence said that it can be used to cure gonorrhea.  The research team led by Dr. Eric Chow of the Melbourne Sexual Health Center, added Listerine Cool Mint or Total Care to lab dishes full of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria to test this claim. 

The undiluted mouthwash left zero bacteria alive after a minute of exposure.  When diluted, it killed most of the N gonorrhea microbes.

Scientists launched a clinical trial to confirm the lab experiment.  The trial was participated by gay or bisexual men in Melbourne, Australia, who tested positive for gonorrhea in their mouths and throat between May 2015 and February 2016.

Experiments Show That Listerine Does Kill N Gonorrhea

The participants were also given antibiotics, but "antibiotics don't do as good a job of curing gonorrhea of the throat as at other sites of infection," said Dr. Edward Hook of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, an advisor of the American Sexual Health Association, and an expert on sexually transmitted infections who was not involved in the study.

After five minutes, 84 percent of the saline group still tested positive for gonorrhea on a throat culture, but only 52 percent of the Listerine users did. Testing negative "means there is no viable N. gonorrhoeae present on the swab," Chow said.

"Their experiments suggest that the contents of Listerine do kill [gonorrhea] bacteria," Hook said. "That's quite interesting."  Researchers are now conducting a bigger trial to confirm the preliminary findings.

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