Scientists have concluded that mouthwash kills gonorrhea bacteria — in your mouth, that is. I can’t vouch for your other parts, but maybe don’t put mouthwash there.
Now you’re thinking the same thing that I did: okay, of course Listerine kills bacteria. Well, Listerine advertising from far back as 1879 said the product cured gonorrhea, according to Live Science. But the scientists behind this most recent study state that no one bothered to test the claim until now. The recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showing an uptick in Americans with STDs, including 400,000 cases of gonorrhea, makes this is an especially good time to look for some bacteria-fighting help.
The team of Australian researchers tried a few tests. First, they added gonorrhea-causing Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria to Cool Mint and Total Care Listerine. They spread the mixtures on agar gel — bacteria food — and the Listerine-treated bacteria didn’t grow. Then, the team had 196 men who have sex with men, 58 of whom tested positive for a gonorrhea infection, gargle with the Listerine. Afterwards, the throats of only 52 percent of the infected men tested positive for gonorrhea, while 84 percent of those who slurped a saline solution tested positive. The study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections today, does not detail whether any kissing followed the swishathon.
Hearing that scientists are only now testing a thing you thought was always true should feel familiar. This past summer, the Associated Press showed that no one had really bothered to test how well another part of the daily dental routine worked: flossing. That story ended the same way this one will: there’s definitely more research to be done.
196 people really isn’t that big of a sample size. The gargle also only seemed effective at killing bacteria on the tonsils, not deeper in the throat, and the researchers didn’t do a long term study to see whether the gonorrhea stayed dead.