Ron Johnson promotes dubious claim mouthwash is effective COVID-19 treatment

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Wednesday suggested that standard mouthwash could treat COVID-19, and criticized federal agencies for telling people to “do nothing.”

“Standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus,” Johnson said, according to The Washington Post. “If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things?”

“It just boggles my mind that the NIH continues to tell people to do nothing,” he added of the National Institutes of Health, in a recording posted online by Heartland Signal.

The mouthwash strategy has been refuted by both health experts and mouthwash brands themselves.

Listerine says on its website that it “is not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19 and should be used only as directed on the product label.”

“Overall, more research is needed to understand whether use of mouthwashes can impact viral transmission, exposure, viral entry, viral load and ultimately affect meaningful clinical outcomes or have a public health impact,” the website added.

In response to an audio recording of his comments, Johnson also tweeted research that found mouthwash could provide “modest benefits” in “reducing viral load in saliva.”

However, health experts have clarified that while mouthwash may kill off some of the coronavirus in someone’s mouth, infections tend to occur through the nose.

“Even if gargling kills some of the virus, it won’t be able to clean the nasal area, nor the viruses that’s already penetrated deeper into the body,” Kim Woo-Joo, an infectious disease expert at Korea University, told the Post.

“During the townhall I was letting my constituents know we are seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, to take it seriously and do everything they can to stay healthy,” the senator said in a statement to The Hill. “I did not say that taking vitamins, using mouthwash, would be a replacement for the vaccine, should you chose [sic] to get one.”

“Even Dr. Fauci said, ‘I would not mind recommending, and I do it myself, taking vitamin D supplements.’ I continued to be amazed at the resistance to anything that might reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms,” he added, noting that there are “multiple studies that say mouthwash may reduce viral load.”

Johnson has supported other measures to treat COVID-19 including ivermectin, which the Food and Drug Administration has warned could be lethal, and hydroxychloroquine, which was touted by former President Trump last year.

Updated: 3:40 p.m.

Tags COVID-19 misinformation COVID-19 treatments Donald Trump Dr. Fauci mouthwash Ron Johnson

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