Oral antiseptics against coronavirus: in-vitro and clinical evidence

J Hosp Infect. 2021 Jul;113:30-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2021.04.004. Epub 2021 Apr 15.


Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the cellular receptor for SARS-CoV-2, so ACE2-expressing cells can act as target cells and are susceptible to infection. ACE2 receptors are highly expressed in the oral cavity, so this may be a potential high-risk route for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Furthermore, the virus can be detected in saliva, even before COVID-19 symptoms appear, with the consequent high risk of virus transmission in asymptomatic/presymptomatic patients. Reducing oral viral load could lead to a lower risk of transmission via salivary droplets or aerosols and therefore contribute to the control of the pandemic. Our aim was to evaluate the available evidence testing the in-vitro and in-vivo effects of oral antiseptics to inactivate or eradicate coronaviruses. The criteria used were those described in the PRISMA declaration for performing systematic reviews. An electronic search was conducted in Medline (via PubMed) and in Web of Sciences, using the MeSH terms: 'mouthwash' OR 'oral rinse' OR 'mouth rinse' OR 'povidone iodine' OR 'hydrogen peroxide' OR 'cetylpyridinium chloride' AND 'COVID-19' OR 'SARS-CoV-2' OR 'coronavirus' OR 'SARS' OR 'MERS'. The initial search strategy identified 619 articles on two electronic databases. Seventeen articles were included assessing the virucidal efficacy of oral antiseptics against coronaviruses. In conclusion, there is sufficient in-vitro evidence to support the use of antiseptics to potentially reduce the viral load of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses. However, in-vivo evidence for most oral antiseptics is limited. Randomized clinical trials with a control group are needed to demonstrate its clinical efficacy.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronaviruses; Oral antiseptics; Oral rinse; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology*
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Cetylpyridinium / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Mouth
  • Mouthwashes / pharmacology*
  • Pandemics
  • Povidone-Iodine / pharmacology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / drug effects
  • Saliva / virology
  • Viral Load / drug effects*


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Mouthwashes
  • Povidone-Iodine
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Cetylpyridinium