In a study conducted by researcher Eric Chow, who is with Australia’s Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, along with his colleagues, found that Listerine kills gonorrhea bacteria in mouths and throats. The study was relatively small, a clinical trial involving just 58 men who tested positive for gonorrhea in their mouths or throats. Preliminary evidence proves that claims made by Listerine manufactures, as early as 1879, claiming the mouthwash could be used to treat gonorrhea may have been legit.
According to Tech Times, despite these early claims, nobody had ever tried conducting a clinical trial to find out if there was any validity to the assertion. With the rate of gonorrhea more than doubling in Australia over the last five years, finding an easy and inexpensive way to reduce the incidence of gonorrhea was one goal of the researchers.
There has also been an increase in the rate of gonorrhea among men in the United States, though not as high of an increase. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “in 2014, there were 110.7 cases per 100,000 people, which was a 5.1 percent increase over the 2013 rate, and a 10.5 percent increase over the 2010 rate.”
Yahoo News reported that Chow and his fellow researchers published their findings on December 20 in the journal, Sexually Transmitted Infections. The researchers “conducted a randomized controlled trial to test claims that Listerine can be used as treatment for gonorrhea.” The results of their research suggests that Listerine can be an inexpensive and simple method to reduce the spread of gonorrhea.
Chow and his team of researchers compared the effectiveness of Listerine Cool Mint and Total Care varieties, both of which contain 21.6 percent alcohol, to gargling with a salt water solution. They found that gargling daily with the Listerine products lowered the levels of gonorrhea bacteria. However, gargling with salt water had little effect.
Bolstered by the initial findings, Chow and the team of researchers conducted a clinical trial, involving 58 men who have tested positive for the presence of gonorrhea bacteria in their mouths or throats. The men were split up into two groups, one which gargled with Listerine while the other group gargled for one minute with a saline solution.
The results of the researchers were that in the group of men who gargled with Listerine, “the proportion of viable gonorrhea” in their throats “was lower at 52 percent compared with 84 percent among those in the salt solution group.” According to Tech Times, the men in the group gargling with Listerine were now 80 percent less likely to test positive for gonorrhea compared to those who gargled the saltwater solution.
A couple of drawbacks of the study are that Chow and the team of researchers conducted a small clinical trial meaning more research with larger groups of men will be required to verify the results of their findings. Also, the researchers said they were not certain how long the results would last or how long they needed to gargle and rinse with the mouthwash in order to prevent gonorrhea infections in the future.
While gargling with Listerine appears to greatly reduce the levels of gonorrhea bacteria in men’s mouths and throats, the researchers did not conduct any experiments or research to show if use of the mouthwash might also “affect transmission of the STD to other parts of the body such as the anus and urethra.” Testing to discover if the mouthwash is also effective in slowing down the transmission of gonorrhea to other parts of the body is something that might be the subject of future research.
While Listerine advertising highlights that the mouthwash kills bacteria, nobody had ever attempted to determine if the 1879 claim was true, that the product could be successfully used to treat gonorrhea, until Eric Chow and his team of colleagues decided to find out if the claims had any merit to them. According to Gizmodo, another study this past summer suggested that flossing can also have a beneficial effect in reducing gonorrhea in the mouths and throats of men.
With gonorrhea on the increase in countries like Australia and the United States, the discovery that Listerine can be a relatively effective tool to combat and kill gonorrhea bacteria in the mouth and throat is another step in the ongoing fight to combat STDs. Listerine is not a cure for gonorrhea, though, and Chow and his fellow researchers stress that more research and larger studies need to be done to verify the results of the clinical trial in Australia.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy Listerine