Mouthwash Can Kill STDs

Researchers tested Listerine's 137-year-old claim that mouthwash can block gonorrhea from spreading in the mouth, and holy shit! It's true!

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Dec 22 2016, 1:00pm

In 1879, an new antiseptic emerged to help clean floors, eliminate odors, and treat diseases like gonorrhea. The product's creator, Joseph Lister, called his product Listerine, which as it turns out, makes a fine mouthwash thanks the 21.5 percent alcohol content. 

A new study published yesterday in the peer-review journal Sexually Transmitted Infections finds that the late Lister was no kook: His product works as advertised, significantly reducing gonorrhea bacteria colonies in the mouth and throat.

Looking at just under 60 gay and bisexual men with pharyngeal gonorrhea, scientists at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre found that one minute of gargling the mouthwash was enough to reduce gonorrhea bacteria by nearly half. Those gargling saline saw a much smaller drop of just 16 percent.

"This readily available, condomless, and low-cost intervention may have very significant public health implications," write the study's authors, who suggest that a post-sex rinse might be used to limit the STD's spread.

Rates of gonorrhea infection have increased in the US over the past few years, climbing from 106.7 cases per 100,000 during 2009-2012 to 123.9 cases per 100,000 in 2013-2015, according to the CDC. But pharyngeal gonorrhea, the kind that lives in your mouth, is studied far less. One study from 2006 found that among a cohort of men who have sex with other men, the rate was 5.5 percent. Frighteningly, most men were unaware, given that the disease was asymptomatic in 92 percent of cases.

Not to be a total boner killer, but other STDs can also spread from genitals to mouth, like chlamydia ("pharyngeal chlamydia," if you want to be precise) and HPV (which you may remember from the time Michael Douglas' blamed his throat cancer on his affinity for going down on his wife).

So if you're sexually active, now might be a good time to buy some mouthwash. Or you can try taking a shot of bourbon after going down on your partner—that shit is 40 percent alcohol.