Antibacterial Soap is No Way Superior to Plain Soap

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 16 2007 6:30 PM

Washing hands with antibacterial soaps does not remove any more bacteria than plain soaps. In fact, they may turn some common antibiotics less effective, a new study has found.

The University of Michigan study has found that because of the way the main active ingredient, triclosan, in many antibacterial soaps reacted in the cells, it might cause some bacteria to become resistant to commonly used drugs such as amoxicillin.

As part of the study titled 'Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky', Allison Aiello and colleagues examined 27 studies conducted between 1980 and 2006, to checks antibacterial soaps' resistance to e-coli bacteria bugs when exposed to as much as 0.1 percent wt/vol triclosan soap.

The study found that soaps containing triclosan within the range of concentrations commonly used in the community setting (0.1 to 0.45 percent wt/vol) were no more effective than plain soaps.

Triclosan works by targeting a biochemical pathway in the bacteria that allows the bacteria to keep its cell wall intact. Because of the way triclosan kills the bacteria, mutations can happen at the targeted site.

The study noted that mutation could mean that triclosan can no longer get to the target site to kill the bacteria because the bacteria and the pathway have changed form.

"What we are saying is that these e-coli could survive in the concentrations that we use in our (consumer formulated) antibacterial soaps. What it means for consumers is that we need to be aware of what's in the products. The soaps containing triclosan used in the community setting are no more effective than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms, as well as reducing bacteria on the hands," Aiello said.

The findings of the study were published in the August edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.