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Listerine May Help Control Spread of Gonorrhea

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The mouthwash Listerine may inhibit the growth of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, according to an in vitro study and a small randomized trial of men who have sex with men recently published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Gonorrhea is on the rise, especially among gay or bisexual men, as condom use has declined. To stop the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of N gonorrhoeae, the need for prevention measures that don’t rely on condoms is urgent, according to the authors.

Anita Slomski, MA

The researchers applied a series of dilutions (up to 1:32) of Listerine, which contains 21.6% alcohol, to cultures of N gonorrhoeae, with a saline solution used as a control. Listerine at dilutions of up to 1:4 applied for 1 minute significantly reduced the number of N gonorrhoeae counts, but the saline solution did not.

The trial included 196 men who have sex with men who had been diagnosed with pharyngeal gonorrhea and returned for antibiotic treatment. The men were randomly assigned to rinse and gargle for 1 minute with either Listerine or saline. Only those participants who were culture positive for pharyngeal gonorrhea on the day of treatment—58 men—were included in the analysis. The men who gargled with Listerine were significantly less likely to have a positive culture on the pharyngeal surface (52%) compared with men in the saline group (84%).

The authors acknowledged that the study was limited in size, was unblinded, and had a short follow-up time, stating it was designed to gather preliminary evidence before undertaking a larger prevention trial assessing whether daily Listerine use could reduce the risk of gonorrhea reinfection.

 read more at JAMA