Study claims no link between real world use of antibacterial soaps and antibiotic resistance

October 5, 2011

Newly published research says it reaffirms that the use of antibacterial wash products in the home environment does not contribute to antibiotic or antibacterial resistance, confirming previous research that showcased similar findings.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Microbiology Research, compared the use of over-the-counter antibacterial liquid hand and body cleansers and antibacterial bar soaps – containing the germ-killing ingredients triclosan and triclocarban – against the use of non-antibacterial cleansers.

Lead author Dr. Eugene Cole, who has spent more than 35 years in the field of environmental health research, says the study discounts claims that the use of antibacterial wash products have contributed to the selection and spread of drug-resistant bacteria on human skin.

Research Protocol

From a pool of more than 450 individuals, 210 study participants were randomly selected, 70 for each of three groups: 1) those that frequently used liquid bath or shower products containing triclosan; 2) those that frequently used bar soaps containing triclocarban; and 3) those that did not use any antibacterial wash products and thus served as the control group.

A standard method for swabbing both forearms of all participants was used to collect samples of Staphylococcus bacteria, which were then tested against several different types of antibiotics that are commonly used to treat Staph infections.

The experimental results showed that there was no increase in the antibiotic resistance of the Staph strains isolated from either group that had been using antibacterial wash products, when compared to those isolates obtained from the control group. And those bacteria also showed no increased resistance to triclosan or triclocarban.

“There was no statistically significant difference in of Staphylococcus isolates obtained from the skin of regular antibacterial wash product users in comparison with non-antibacterial product users,” said Dr. Cole, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences of Brigham Young University’s Department of Health Science. “There was also a definitive lack of antibiotic and antibacterial cross resistance among those bacteria.”

The research was supported by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) and the Personal Care Products Council.

“Hygiene product manufacturers and ingredient suppliers continuously review and analyze research and fund new studies to ensure product and ingredient efficacy and safety. This is part of our industry’s long-standing commitment to product stewardship,” said Dr. Francis Kruszewski, ACI Director of Human Health and Safety. “After decades of use, antibacterial wash products continue to play a beneficial role in everyday hygiene routines for millions of people around the world.”

Explore further: EPA accused of ignoring sewage chemicals

More information:Investigation of Antibiotic and Antibacterial Susceptibility and Resistance in Staphylococcus from the Skin of Users and Non-Users of Antibacterial Wash Products in Home Environments” was authored by Dr. Eugene Cole, along with R.M. Addison, Duke University Medical Center, Clinical Microbiology/Infectious Diseases; P.D. Dulaney, Applied Environmental, Inc.; K.E. Leese, Applied Environmental, Inc.; H.M. Madanat, San Diego State University, Graduate School of Public Health; and A.M. Guffey, Applied Environmental, Inc.

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5 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2011
Why does this look like the American Cleaning Institute finding a way to conduct a study that will come to a pre-determined conclusion? Is it only me? Studies going back at least 15 years have almost all come to the opposite conclusion. What were they missing?
not rated yet Oct 06, 2011
It's interesting to see no comparison between numbers of staph bacteria on antibacterial users vs non-users. If it doesn't reduce the incidence of harmful bacteria, you may as well use Ivory soap.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2011
What were they missing?
Almost certainly, they *deliberately* failed to address the very mechanism by which widespread use of antibacterial compounds creates resistant strains: dilution.

The concentrations of microbicides in household products are by design high enough to kill ordinary, non-resistant or even partially-resistant bacteria. However, those soaps and cleansers get washed off with water and sent down the sewer pipe, whereupon they mix with the other brownwater, leak into the environment, etc. End result: the antibacterial agents get so diluted that instead of outright killing bacteria they merely harm them. That sets up an environment ripe for natural selection: those bacteria that get harmed less due to some genetic variation, will reproduce better. Gradually, resistance in the wild will build up until you wind up with fully-resistant organisms that can withstand even the highest concentrations of these microbicides.

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