Unilever research identifies mouthwash technology with potential to reduce viral load of SARS-CoV-2 virus by 99.9%

New in vitro test results show that a mouthwash containing CPC Technology is effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 viral load by 99.9%1. This test was conducted by an independent and internationally accredited testing facility, Microbac Laboratories, on behalf of Unilever Research Laboratories.2

Illustration of scientist
  • The preliminary test results show that using mouthwashes with CPC Technology could have an important role as a preventative measure to reduce viral transmission of COVID-19, in addition to preventing many other oral diseases and problems when used as directed on pack.
  • CPC Technology is already used widely by the dental industry and is known for its anti-virus properties.

While we are clear that this is not a cure or proven way to prevent the transmission of coronavirus3, the results are very promising, and given the critical stage of the pandemic we feel it is important to share them so that people are aware of the potential benefits of CPC containing mouthwashes alongside other preventative measures.

Glyn Roberts PhD, Head of Unilever Oral Care Research and Development

Unilever has confirmed that preliminary lab test results show that a mouthwash formulation containing CPC Technology, reduces 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, after 30 seconds of rinsing.2

The preliminary 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 into the duration of the effect continues, 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.

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 positive results consistently.

An illustration showing how the virus that causes Covid-19 spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose

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.

An illustration showing how mouthwash with CPC technology has potential to reduce 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 in an in vitro test

Glyn Roberts PhD, Head of Unilever Oral Care R&D, says, “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.

“We are committed to making CPC-based products available in as many countries as possible in the coming months6. 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.”

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

Professor Iain Chapple, Head of Research for Institute of Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK, says, “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. 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.”

Dr Angela Rasmussen, PhD, Associate Research Scientist at the Center of Infection and Immunity at the Columbia University School of Public Health, adds, “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. 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.”

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: Randomized Control Trial in Singapore (non-Unilever research)

5 WHO: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1 and L.L. Fernandes et al., Journal of Dental Research, 1–9 https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022034520960070

6 Excluding North America

Notes to editors

What is CPC? Cetylpyridinium chloride is a widely used cosmetic ingredient, also used by the dental industry, and is known for its antibacterial and anti-virus benefits.

How was the testing carried out? The tests were carried out by independent laboratories in the United States. We tested for both 30 and 60 seconds, rinse times, aiming to replicate the real-life use of mouthwash in an in-vitro context.

What do the results show? The preliminary results show a mouthwash formulation containing CPC (cetylpyridinium chloride) is effective in reducing the viral load by 99.9% after 30 seconds of rinsing2, which is consistent with typical usage of mouthwash. The tests do not suggest that the formulation is a treatment for COVID-19, nor a guarantee that it will prevent transmission on its own. Established protective measures advised by health authorities should be followed, including hand washing, physical distancing and wearing masks.

What about alcohol in mouthwash? Mouthwashes that contain alcohol (ethanol) typically contain it at 11-14%. Data suggests at this concentration and time relevant to mouthwash use, ethanol is unlikely to be effective against viruses.

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Where relevant, these actions are subject to the appropriate consultations and approvals.

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