Listerine bottle

Sexually transmitted diseases still cause infections and suffering around the world, but public health authorities are hopeful that help might come from an unexpected quarter. An old mouthwash has just been found to help fight the bacteria that cause gonorrhea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Listerine Mouthwash Put to the Test:

Australian researchers tested Listerine Cool Mint and Total Care both in test tubes and in men who had been diagnosed with this sexually transmitted disease. The alcohol-containing Listerine mouthwashes significantly reduced the growth of the bacteria responsible for gonorrhea in both situations.

Although the original manufacturer of Listerine promoted its use against gonorrhea more than 100 years ago, evidence of effectiveness was lacking until now. The authors suggest that if these findings are confirmed, daily use of this affordable mouthwash could have significant public health benefits.

Sexually Transmitted Infections, online, Dec. 20, 2016 

Gonorrhea that is left untreated can cause serious complications. These include pelvic inflammatory disease in women and fertility difficulties in men. The infection usually responds well to appropriate antibiotic treatment, though N. gonorrhoeae is developing resistance to the primary antibiotics used. Although using Listerine mouthwash daily won’t eliminate the possibility of spreading the infection, public health officials hope it will reduce the risk.

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  1. Steve

    Okay, I get it, I think: the bacteria can be transmitted by kissing, as well as by having sex, is that the point? If a diseased person uses mouthwash that kills bacteria in their mouth, it will reduce the chances that kissing can transmit the disease but otherwise, is of no effect upon the disease, nor does it protect from sexual transmission. It doesn’t sound like big news, as I wouldn’t think kissing to be a major transmission route, but perhaps it is, or perhaps my understanding isn’t right. I suppose using the mouthwash would also reduce the odds of being infected by a kiss on the mouth of an infected person. Whatever, not my problem. But how could it cure dandruff?!

    I use a name-brand dandruff shampoo twice weekly and a mouthwash daily, so can I skip the dandruff shampoo now? :-) As for waking up with nasal congestion and having listerine handy to rub on my feet, well, nevermind!

  2. Marie

    I can only second the above commenter that said, I don’t know about sexual diseases, but Listerine cured my dandruff!” Listerine took care of the scale on my scalp, too! And, when I wake up with nasal congestion in the night, I rub a bit of Listerine on the soles of my feet, and my nasal passages open up. Sounds crazy, I know, but it works!

  3. Frank

    The original article mentions in vitro (test tubes) and in men with pharyngeal gonorrhea. The men gargled with it for one minute and the results were significant, but apparently not 100% effective.

  4. Virginia

    Exactly how and where would one put the Listerine? I think it could sting on mucous membrane.

  5. Hank
    Left coast

    > using Listerine mouthwash daily

    using it how, exactly?

  6. Martha

    I don’t know about sexual diseases, but Listerene, cured my dandruff!

  7. Ellie

    So where do you put the Listerine? On the mouth? On genitals? It doesn’t make any sense.

  8. Kevin

    How is Listerine used as an agent against gonorrhea?
    As stated in the article “The alcohol-containing Listerine mouthwashes significantly reduced the growth of the bacteria responsible for gonorrhea in both situations.”
    And “in test tubes and in men who had been diagnosed with this sexually transmitted disease.”
    Please clarify how this STD is reduced.

    • Terry Graedon

      The men who had been diagnosed originally produced bacterial cultures from swabbings of their mouths. After using the mouthwash as intended (ie as a mouthwash), fewer of those swabbings produced bacterial cultures. This is important from a public health perspective, because it could cut down on transmission. It is not protection for an individual, nor is it treatment for his infection.

  9. Larry M
    Raleigh, NC

    Terry wrote “Australian researchers tested Listerine Cool Mint and Total Care…in men who had been diagnosed with this sexually transmitted disease.”

    How? External application? Catheter? Oral dosage?

    • Terry Graedon

      The men, who were patients at an STD clinic, used the mouthwash as intended. Afterward, a swab of their mouth was less likely to produce a bacterial culture.

      This is from a public health perspective. From an individual perspective, it is probably too risky.

  10. Rebecca
    Winston-Salem, NC

    I am confused as to how you use Listerine to treat Gonorrhea. Did they gargle with it or use it topically? The article mentions it’s use in test tubes but is not specific about how the men used it.

    • Terry Graedon

      The men were asked to gargle with it. This is far from a “treatment” for gonorrhea. Infected people also need antibiotics! But after gargling with the mouthwash, the researchers swabbed the men’s mouths and throats. The swabs did not result in bacterial cultures growing in a substantial number of the men. That is why they got excited about its potential to reduce transmission. But: it is far from foolproof, and it does NOTHING to make the infection the men have go away. That still needs to be treated.

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