- Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to public health
- Triclosan is used in toothpastes to prevent bacterial contamination
- Triclosan exposure may encourage the growth of drug-resistant infections
According to the World Health Organisation, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global public health. A growing number of serious infections of such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective. Antibiotics are medicines that are used treat bacterial infections.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when the bacteria stops responding to the effects of the antibiotics and tends to become immune to them. This makes it more difficult to treat the particular viral disease. Although antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, the misuse of medicines is making this process faster. A new study, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, indicates another reason that may be increasing the risk of antibiotic resistance.
According to researchers, an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent called triclosan, found in toothpastes, soaps and detergents, can be blamed for it. The study shows that resistance to triclosan may also lead to resistance to a class of drugs called quinolones and therefore, triclosan exposure may encourage the growth of antibiotic resistant strains.
For the study, researchers from the University of Birmingham conducted tests on the E.coli bacteria, commonly known as the stomach bug, and they found that it had mutated to become resistant to quinolones as well as triclosan. The use of triclosan in hygiene products has been banned across the European Union and the United States. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration has warned that triclosan could contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Surprisingly, while the use of triclosan has been prohibited in soaps, body washes and other topical products, it still exists in our toothpastes. It is added to prevent bacterial contamination and plaque build-up, but a lot of recent studies have shown that triclosan may disrupt the metabolism, cause hormonal problems in children and promote drug-resistant infections. Keeping this in mind, the use of triclosan in toothpastes is worrisome because the chemical can be easily absorbed in the bloodstream through the gums. The jury is till out on whether triclosan in toothpastes can be harmful for your health.
The study raises concerns about certain ingredients found in products that we use daily that are altering ecosystems and potentially promoting a selection of antibiotic resistant bacteria.