Is Antibacterial Soap Increasing Your Chances Of A Nasal Infection?
April 8, 2014

Is Antibacterial Soap Increasing Your Chances Of A Nasal Infection?

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Previous research has shown that the overuse of antibiotics has a hand in promoting an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria and now a new study published in the journal mBio has found that an antibiotic common to soaps and hand sanitizers actually promotes the growth of Staphylococcus aureus inside the human nose.

The new study, from researchers at the University of Michigan, found that the antibacterial additive triclosan could actually increase the risk of nasal infection.

"It's really common in hand soaps, toothpastes and mouthwashes but there's no evidence it does a better job than regular soap," said study author Blaise Boles, an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the university. "This agent may have unintended consequences in our bodies. It could promote S. aureus nasal colonization, putting some people at increased risk for infection."

The researchers discovered that triclosan was in 41 percent of the adult nasal passages they swabbed for their study. The majority of those with the supposed antibacterial agent in their nose also tested positive for the presence of S. aureus.

Triclosan has been in use for four decades and other studies have identified traces of the chemical in human fluids such as serum, urine and milk. Studies on animals have seen that high concentrations of triclosan can affect the endocrine system and lower heart and skeletal muscle function.

The new study also revealed that S. aureus developed in the presence of triclosan were clingier to human proteins and rats exposed to triclosan were more vulnerable to S. aureus nasal colonization.

"In light of the significant use of triclosan in consumer products and its widespread environmental contamination, our data combined with previous studies showing impacts of triclosan on the endocrine system and muscle function suggest that a reevaluation of triclosan in consumer products is urgently needed," the study team wrote.

Boles indicated that his future research would involve a more broad survey to see whether triclosan is affecting microbial colonization at other human body sites.

The mBio study comes after another study published last week found little value of antibacterial soaps. The researchers who conducted that study noted that a lack of regulation has caused antibacterial compound to spread throughout the ecosystem.

Questioning the value of these products has become such a hot topic – the Food and Drug Administration has called for a change to the way antibacterial products are evaluated. In a proposed rule, the FDA has called for manufactures to demonstrate the safety of their products within one year or they must completely remove antibiotics from their products.

“The FDA’s move is a prudent and important step toward preserving the efficacy of clinically important antibiotics, preventing unnecessary exposure of the general population to endocrine disrupting and potentially harmful chemicals, and throttling back the increasing release and accumulation of antimicrobials in the environment,” said Rolf Halden, director at the Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University and author of last week’s study.

“Sustainability considerations already are informing the design of green pharmaceuticals and adopting this approach for antimicrobials promises to yield important benefits to people and the planet,” Halden noted in his study.