The antiviral spectrum of Listerine antiseptic

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 1995 Apr;79(4):442-8. doi: 10.1016/s1079-2104(05)80124-6.


The mechanism of activity and the antiviral spectrum of Listerine antiseptic have not been examined thoroughly. We therefore tested its effect on laboratory strains of herpes simplex type 1 and type 2 (enveloped DNA viruses), influenza A virus (enveloped RNA virus), rotavirus (nonenveloped RNA virus), and adenovirus type 5 (nonenveloped DNA virus). Each virus was mixed with an equal volume of Listerine for 30 seconds to 5 minutes, and the residual infectivity of the virus was assessed. An antiviral effect was defined as greater than 95% reduction of infectivity. Exposure to Listerine for 30 seconds had an antiviral effect against herpes simplex type-1 and type-2 (96.3% and 100% reduction in infectious virus, respectively) and influenza A (100% reduction). In contrast, rotavirus-induced plaque formation was reduced by 12.2% after 30 seconds of exposure to Listerine, whereas 5 minutes of exposure to Listerine resulted in a 21.5% increase in plaque formation. Exposure of adenovirus to Listerine had a minimal effect on the cytopathocity of the virus, with a 33.4% reduction in virus levels after 5 minutes. The antiviral activity of Listerine is thus not related to the viral genome but is probably directed to the viral envelope.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Capsid / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured / virology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Cytopathogenic Effect, Viral / drug effects
  • Dogs
  • Drug Combinations
  • Fibroblasts / virology
  • Hemadsorption Inhibition Tests
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / drug effects
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / drug effects
  • Influenza A virus / drug effects
  • Kidney / cytology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mouthwashes / pharmacology*
  • Rotavirus / drug effects
  • Salicylates / pharmacology*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Terpenes / pharmacology*
  • Vero Cells / virology
  • Viral Fusion Proteins / drug effects
  • Viral Plaque Assay
  • Virulence / drug effects
  • Viruses / drug effects*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Drug Combinations
  • Mouthwashes
  • Salicylates
  • Terpenes
  • Viral Fusion Proteins
  • Listerine