Republican Sen. Ron Johnson told supporters Wednesday that mouthwash is proven to be effective against COVID-19, continuing his trend of spreading dangerous misinformation about the disease and its treatments.
“By the way, standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus. If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things?” he said during a telephone town hall with Wisconsin constituents. “It just boggles my mind that the NIH continues to tell people, ‘Do nothing, you know, maybe take Tylenol.’”
Mouthwash companies and researchers in the field have drawn no such conclusions.
Listerine, the top-selling mouthwash brand in the U.S., specifically states on its website that its product is“not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19 and should be used only as directed on the product label.”
“No evidence-based clinical conclusions can be drawn with regards to the anti-viral efficacy of Listerine Antiseptic mouthwash at this time,” it says.
Johnson has a long history of spreading COVID-19 conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine misinformation. He has promoted the use of unproven and potentially dangerous treatments such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, and he’s cast doubt on the efficacy and motive behind the vaccines ― which have been proven safe and effective to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
After a clip from the town hall was circulated online, the senator retweeted it, citing a French study to support his claim.
.@NIH: This trial supports using CDCM on day 1 (4 hours after the initial dose) to reduce the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in saliva. For long-term effect (7 days), CDMC appears to provide a modest benefit compared with placebo in reducing viral load in saliva.https://t.co/VeXd3zmlEGhttps://t.co/XKq6YfQx0d
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) December 9, 2021
The study did not find that mouthwash kills the coronavirus. Instead, researchers concluded that an antiviral mouthwash known as CDCM had an effect in reducing the viral load in saliva of participants, all of whom had asymptomatic to mild COVID-19 cases.
HuffPost has reached out to its lead author for comment on Johnson’s claims.
Reducing the viral load in a person’s mouth could potentially help to reduce transmission to others, and researchers are continuing to explore this as a possible way to mitigate the spread of the virus, but alongside proven methods such as hand washing and mask wearing.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.