In 1867, when British surgeon Joseph Lister published a series of articles in the British Medical Journal discussing the importance of sanitizing surgical instruments with carbolic acid before surgeries, he was unconsciously creating a new era for personal hygiene.
In 1879, Lister created his own version of carbolic acid and sold it as Listerine, and in doing so, it turns out, he also created cheap and easy way to suppress gonorrhea!
Originally developed as a surgical antiseptic Listerine was later marketed as a floor cleaner and pitched as a cure for gonorrhea back before antibiotics existed. Researchers at a Melbourne clinic decided to put Lister's marketing to the test. They publishing their findings in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Researchers took 58 gay or bisexual men who’d tested positive for oral gonorrhea after a follow up, and split them up into two groups — one group was assigned to rinse and gargle with Listerine, while the other was given a saline solution.
After comparing results, it was revealed that those who gargled with Listerine had 52 percent viable gonorrhea in the throat, while the group that gargled with saline had 84 percent.
“Our data provides preliminary evidence to support the further investigation of mouthwash as a non-condom-based control measure for gonorrhea,” researchers concluded. “Listerine mouthwash is a cheap, easy to use and effective agent that inhibits gonorrhea growth and requires further careful consideration and study.”
A larger study is planned to examine the theory further, testing whether the use of mouthwash can suppress the spread of gonorrhea altogether, as well as calculating how long the effects might last.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gonorrhea is especially common among young people between ages 15 and 24. The rates of gonorrhea among gay men have also been rising, something that is particularly concerning because a new strain of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea has recently reached the United States.
Those with gonorrhea don't always have symptoms, which is why regular testing is recommended.