Soap May Create The Next Superbug
Triclosan is a chemical found in hand soap, toothpaste, toys, meat and thousands of other products in your daily life. But it’s popularity is due to it being an incredibly potent biocide… and it may end up causing the formation of the next superbug.
(A biocide, by the way, is any chemical capable of killing living organisms, though usually in a selective way.) Raid is a biocide specifically designed to target insects; Roundup is one for weeds; and triclosan is a biocide that specifically targets bacteria. You’ve probably seen anti-bacterial soaps advertising that they kill 99.9% of all germs. That’s triclosan that is doing the heavy lifting.
Of course, we all want our soaps to kill germs and our toothpaste to prevent gum disease. But triclosan has the power to create superbugs that can’t be killed by any known antibiotic.
See, every time an organism, such as bacteria, reproduces, it passes on its genetic material to its offspring. Sometimes this process doesn’t go as planned, and the inherited genetic material has a mutation in it. A really bad mutation might cause the offspring to die, but a good mutation (think X-Men) can give an organism an evolutionary advantage over its friends. One of the best mutations for a bacterium is resistance to triclosan.
In theory, triclosan kills 99.9% of all bacteria. The only ones that slip through the net are germs with a genetic mutation that makes them resistant to triclosan. These, then, are the only bacteria that have offspring – and thus triclosan resistance becomes an inherited trait common to lots of bacteria.
Because triclosan is super effective at killing bacteria, the only germs that survive the onslaught are those with a genetic mutation that makes them triclosan resistant. And if they’re resistant to that biocide, who knows what else they may be able to fend off. Researchers are concerned that triclosan will cause mutations in strains of staphylococcus or e. coli bacteria and that these deadly supergerms will be resistant to antibiotics as well. It’s a pandemic in the making.
The EU Scientific Directorate agrees. In 2010, they published a report that said, “low concentration of triclosan can trigger the expression of resistance and cross-resistance mechanisms in bacteria.” In other words, it doesn’t take a lot of triclosan to create conditions in which genetic mutations can be passed on.
So, the next time you want to buy some soap to keep your family safe and healthy, stay away from anti-bacterial triclosan. You’ll be keeping your children germ free, but your grandchildren may have to deal with an antibiotic-resistant, mutant superbug.
[ photo galleries ]
The opinions expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of our bloggers and in no way reflect the opinions of truTV, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., Time Warner, Inc. and/or any of their respective employees, officers, subsidiaries or affiliates.
We may provide links to outside blogs or websites from this site, truTV is not affiliated with these websites and makes no representations, endorsements or warranties with regard to the content found on those sites.