COVID-19: Efficacy of commercial mouth-rinses on SARS-CoV-2 viral load in saliva

The presence of high SARS-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) titres in saliva may result in transmission of the virus and increase the risk of COVID-19 infection.

This is particularly important as significant amounts of aerosols are generated during dental procedures, posing risk to dental care personnel and patients.

Thus, reducing the titres of SARS-CoV-2 in the saliva of infected patients could be one of the key approaches to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during dental procedures. 

In this randomised control trial, the efficacy of three commercial mouthrinse viz. povidone-iodine (PI), chlorhexidine gluconate (CHX) and cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), in reducing the salivary SARS-CoV-2 viral load in COVID-19 positive patients were compared with water.

A total of 36 COVID-19 positive patients were recruited, of which 16 patients were randomly assigned to four groups— PI group (n=4), CHX group (n=6), CPC group (n=4) and water as control group (n=2).

Saliva samples were collected from all patients at baseline and at 5 min, 3 h and 6 h post-application of mouth-rinses/water. The samples were subjected to SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR analysis. 

The fold change of Ct values were significantly increased in CPC group at 5 minutes and 6 h time points (p<0.05), while it showed significant increase at 6 h time point for PI group (p<0.01). 

Considering Ct values as an indirect method of arbitrarily quantifying the viral load, it can be postulated that CPC mouth-rinse can decrease the salivary SARS-CoV-2 levels within 5 minutes of use, compared to water rinsing.

The effect of decreasing salivary load with CPC and PI mouth-rinsing was observed to be sustained at 6 h time point. 

Within the limitation of the current study, it can be concluded that use of CPC and PI formulated commercial mouth-rinses, with its sustained effect on reducing salivary SARS-CoV-2 level, may be useful as a pre-procedural rinse to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

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