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Animal welfare science aids conservation–Response

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Science  09 Oct 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6513, pp. 181
DOI: 10.1126/science.abe5111

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Sorry, Mouthwash Isn’t a Coronavirus Cure

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hands pouring mouthwash

Photo: goffkein.pro (Shutterstock)

Mouthwash is designed to kill germs in your mouth. It is, I’d have to say, pretty good at its job. And yet: we do not seriously trust mouthwash to prevent the transmission of common colds, strep infections, or any other mouth-germ-y illness. We shouldn’t get our hopes up it will be an effective way to avoid getting COVID-19 either.

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There have been a few studies testing the effects of mouthwash on SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) and they are interesting and potentially useful, especially for healthcare workers. For example, if using mouthwash before a dental visit temporarily reduces the amount of virus in your mouth, that might help reduce your dentist’s risk of getting sick.

And that’s really the level of protection that scientists are evaluating when they look at mouthwash and coronavirus. Unfortunately, the way some people are sharing the latest story, it seems like there is some hope that mouthwash is a new tool we can use to protect ourselves in our everyday lives. The study these breathless news articles are based on doesn’t support that conclusion, though—or at least not yet.

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What’s the new study about?

The latest study on mouthwash, reported with headlines like “Common mouthwashes may help fight the coronavirus,” describes an experiment involving:

  1. Human cells grown in the lab (not in an actual human being)
  2. One of the other human coronaviruses.

That’s right, the virus being experimented on here is not the one that causes COVID-19, but a less harmful one called HCoV‐229e, one of the many viruses responsible for the common cold. What works against this virus probably also works against the one we’re worried about, so it was a fair choice for an experiment.

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With this setup, the investigators tried a few different mouthwashes and drugstore products to see which ones inactivated most of the virus. Here’s what they said about the products that worked:

A 1% baby shampoo nasal rinse solution inactivated HCoV [the cold-causing coronaivirus] greater than 99.9% with a 2‐min contact time. Several over‐the‐counter mouthwash/gargle products including Listerine and Listerine‐like products were highly effective at inactivating infectious virus with greater than 99.9% even with a 30‐s contact time. In the current manuscript we have demonstrated that several commonly available healthcare products have significant virucidal properties with respect to HCoV.

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(Not mentioned above because it didn’t pass the tests: a nasal rinse recipe included with a CVS neti pot, which involved salt and baking soda.)

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This study is not the first to test the idea that mouthwash might help prevent transmission of COVID-19. A review published earlier this year breaks down the evidence that mouthwash should be able to help. Briefly: SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus; ingredients in mouthwash can disrupt this type of envelope; less virus in your mouth probably means a lower chance of transmission. To be clear, if you’re infected, using mouthwash would result in a temporary reduction in the amount of infectious virus in your mouth. It wouldn’t make you any less sick.

This all makes sense, but nobody has tested this idea in anything approaching a real-world setting. The authors of the review laid out several of the questions that need to be addressed by future research, and they told SELF that clinical trials are underway.

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What does this mean for me?

So far, not much. The most likely way this will affect your life is that someday your dentist or doctor may ask you to use mouthwash before or at the beginning of a visit.

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This research does not mean that mouthwash is a substitute for wearing a mask, or that science has conquered the coronavirus. If you are infected, the virus is still reproducing in your cells and doing its best to escape and infect another host, whether you use mouthwash or not.

If mouthwash is already a thing you use and you feel like doing an extra swish or two, there’s a possibility that doing so will reduce your chances of transmitting the virus. But nobody has tested this specifically. If you’re thinking “well, it can’t hurt,” it’s also worth noting that mouthwash chemicals can sometimes be harsh and irritating, especially with frequent use. The best thing to do right now is to smile because you can see that researchers are working on this important question. Then continue wearing your mask and distancing as usual.

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After historic OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample collection, Lockheed Martin VP Lisa Callahan will join us at TC Sessions: Space

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This December 16 and 17, we’re hosting our very first TC Sessions: Space event. It’ll be a virtual, live-streamed two-day show, including conversations with some of the best and brightest in the space industry. We’re thrilled to be hosting Lisa Callahan, Vice President and General Manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin, at the event, and she’ll join us to discuss her company’s history-making work in robotic space exploration – including the asteroid mining sample collection at asteroid Bennu that happened today – as well as the future of human space exploration.

Callahan’s work at Lockheed covers all the work they do to support NASA and other civil exploration efforts of space, including both robotic and human transportation and science investigations. That includes OSIRIS-REx, the asteroid study and sample return mission that earlier today made a historic descent to the surface of rocky solar system visitor Bennu, an asteroid that’s over 200 thousand miles from Earth.

OSIRIS-REx already made plenty of history, including becoming the closest orbit to an asteroid ever conducted by a spacecraft. But today it topped all of that with a ‘tap-and-go’ descent to the rocky surface, scooping samples that it will now attempt to return to Earth for direct study by scientists. That’s exactly the kind of ambitious extra-planetary robotic research that Callahan and her division at Lockheed have made possible with their work in advanced spacecraft and robotics design.

Callahan is also directly involved in NASA’s plans to return humans to the surface of the Moon – including sending a woman on a lunar landing mission for the first time ever. Lockheed Martin is the manufacturing partner for NASA’s Orion lander, which will transport the first American woman and the next American man to the Moon for their historic mission in 2024.

We’ll talk about what these achievements mean for the space industry, and the future of space exploration – and human spaceflight – in December with Callahan.

You can get Early-Bird tickets right now, and save $150 before prices go up on November 13 — and you can even get a fifth person free if you bring a group of four from your company. Special discounts for current members of the government/military/nonprofit and student tickets are also available directly on the website. And if you are an early-stage space startup looking to get exposure to decision makers, you can even exhibit for the day for just $2,000.

Is your company interested in partnering at TC Sessions: Space 2020? Click here to talk with us about available opportunities.

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How to ‘watch’ NASA’s OSIRIS-REx snatch a sample from near-Earth asteroid Bennu

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe is about to touch down on an asteroid for a smash-and-grab mission, and you can follow its progress live — kind of. The craft is scheduled to perform its collection operation this afternoon, and we’ll know within minutes if all went according to plan.

OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer, was launched in September of 2016 and since arriving at its destination, the asteroid Bennu, has performed a delicate dance with it, entering an orbit so close it set records.

Today is the culmination of the team’s efforts, the actual “touch and go” or TAG maneuver that will see the probe briefly land on the asteroid’s surface and suck up some of its precious space dust. Just a few seconds later, once sampling is confirmed, the craft will jet upwards again to escape Bennu and begin its journey home.

Image Credits: NASA

Image Credits: NASA

While there won’t be live HD video of the whole attempt, NASA will be providing both a live animation of the process informed by OSIRIS-REx’s telemetry, and presumably any good images that are captured as it descends.

We know for certain this is both possible and very cool because Japan’s Hayabusa-2 asteroid mission did something very similar last year, but with the added complexity (and coolness) of firing a projectile into the surface to stir things up and get a more diverse sample.

NASA’s coverage starts at 2 PM Pacific, and the touchdown event is planned to take place an hour or so later, at 3:12 if all goes according to plan. You can watch the whole thing take place in simulation at this Twitch feed, which will be updated live, but NASA TV will also have live coverage and commentary on its YouTube channel. Images may come back from the descent and collection, but they’ll be delayed (it’s hard sending lots of data over a million-mile gap) so if you want the latest, listen closely to the NASA feeds.

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