Triclosan is a synthetic antimicrobial agent that can upset bacterial communities in the gut, a new study suggests.
Use of triclosan can also lead to ‘superbugs’ which are bacteria that are fully resistant to antimicrobials (e.g. antibiotics).
Triclosan was first introduced in the 1970s in hospital scrub soap and is now found in many consumer products, such as:
- cosmetic products,
- mouth washes,
- kitchen utensils,
- cutting boards,
- trash bags,
- and surgical cleaning treatments.
Triclosan is absorbed through the skin easily and traces can be found in most people’s urine.
Dr Thomas Sharpton, an author of this study said:
“There has been a legacy of concern about exposure to microbial pathogens, which has led to increased use of these antimicrobial products.
However, there’s now a growing awareness of the importance of the bacteria in our gut microbiome for human health, and the overuse of antibiotics that can lead to the rise of ‘superbugs’.
There are consequences to constantly trying to kill the bacteria in the world around us, aspects we’re just beginning to understand.”
Exposure to triclosan makes changes to the microbial community structure and the diversity of microorganisms.
Also, some bacteria such as Enterobacteriaceae are vulnerable and some — such as those in the Pseudomonas family — are resilient to the impact of triclosan.
Scientists believe that these changes can imbalance the bacteria in the gut, which in turn contributes to severe illnesses in humans.
Dr Christopher Gaulke, lead author of the study, said:
“Clearly there may be situations where antibacterial agents are needed.
However, scientists now have evidence that intestinal bacteria may have metabolic, cardiovascular, autoimmune and neurological impacts, and concerns about overuse of these agents are valid.
Cumulative impacts are also possible.
We need to do significantly more evaluation of their effects, some of which might be dramatic and long lasting.”
The gut microbiome is vital for human health as it improves immune system function, produces micronutrients and stops the growth of pathogens in the body.
Abnormality in the gut microbiome can lead to conditions such as malnutrition, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.
The study was published in PLOS ONE (Gaulkeet al., 2016).
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