5.14.2008

Bacterial resistance update

Triclosan, a chlorinated polyphenolic compound found in a range of consumer products, has been touted as "antibacterial" and somehow linked, by extension, to providing safety and reducing infection in hospitals and homes. Thus, it's found its way over the last twenty years into soaps and cleansers, and more recently toothpaste (scary).
Scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor reviewed relevant research on this chemical and the products that contain it, and came to the inevitable conclusion: it doesn't really work at reducing infection rates in hospitals, nor is it any better than regular soap at reducing bacterial levels on hands. And, of course, they tracked and documented cross-resistance amongst bacteria exposed to Triclosan and those who've never tasted the stuff: these ubiquitous antibacterial preparations are contributing to bacterial adaptation and resistance. Our environment is awash in these types of substances already, and bacterial resistance is increasing. Antibiotics, which can be lifesavers in emergency situations, are one thing (overused, granted). But no one should be purchasing these Triclosan-containing products which are ineffective and dangerous to the environmental balance.

2 comments:

Sarah Jensen said...

Thanks for the frightening update. I also read that triclosan reacts with chlorine in water to produce chloroform gas, and that when exposed to sunlight, triclosan forms dioxins (?!). Do you know anything about that?

guido said...

As far as I know, both of the concerns you bring up are correct. Chloroform can be created as Triclosan reacts with the chlorine in public water supplies, and the more recent research confirms that this occurs even under "normal use" conditions (i.e. with that antibacterial soap in the bathroom).
While it is also true that UV radiation leads to the formation of specific dioxins as a Triclosan break-down byproduct, scientists are saying that the dioxins produced are not of the "toxic" variety. Then again, DDT didn't use to be toxic either...