Mouthwash could kill coronavirus and slash infection risk, scientists believe.
Just 30 seconds of swirling has proven effective against similar viruses, a review found.
Ingredients in common mouthwashes damaged the bugs’ outer shell – making them harmless.
Now experts have called for urgent research into the potential benefits of using the rinse to combat Covid-19.
They hope to establish if popular brands can inactivate the virus in the throat, where it is thought to multiply.
Study leader Prof Valerie O’Donnell, from Cardiff University, said: “Safe use of mouthwash – as in gargling – has so far not been considered by public health bodies.
“Already published research on other enveloped viruses, including coronaviruses, directly support the idea that oral rinsing should be considered as a potential way to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
“What we don’t know yet is whether existing mouthwashes are active against the lipid membrane of SARS-CoV-2.
Research is needed as a matter of urgency to determine its potential for use against this new virus
“Our review of the literature suggests that research is needed as a matter of urgency to determine its potential for use against this new virus.
“This is an under-researched area of major clinical need – and we hope that research projects will be quickly mobilized to further evaluate this.
“Population-based interventions could be undertaken with available mouthwashes, with active monitoring of outcome to determine efficacy.”
Prof O’Donnell added: “Mouthwash has not been tested against this new coronavirus yet.
“People should continue to follow the preventive measures issued by the government, including washing hands frequently and maintaining social distance.
“This study suggests further clinical studies could be worthwhile based on the theoretical evidence.”
Researchers could assess existing or specially-made formulations of mouthwash in a lab and then in clinical trials, she said.