Jan 29, 2008

Too much of a good thing: Antibacterial soap may cause resistance to bacteria

by Amanda Sullivan

     Recent reports show that antibacterial soaps may be the source of lowered immune systems. The antibacterial products cause the bacterial strains to become resistant, according to the News and Advance. The use of antibacterial soap is a daily occurrence for most Liberty University students and faculty. In fact, Liberty has recently installed antibacterial gel dispensers at the exits of many restrooms on campus. Additionally, many students keep a miniature size container of the gel in their book bag for convenience. “I use the antibacterial gel when I am not near soap and water and my hands feel dirty,” sophomore Dava Rose said. “I use the antibacterial lotion because so many people are sick, and I want to stay healthy,” freshman Melody Tian said. Unknowingly, the miracle hand wash may be the source of overly confident bacterial strains, also known as superbugs – the same germs that many students are trying to protect against receiving.
     Although students are trying to avoid sickness, their frequent use of antibacterial soap may actually be breaking down their immune system. “(The) potential negative consequences of these products include weakening the immune system, which could lead to a greater chance of allergies in children, and their possible link to the emergence of antibiotic resistance – the very problem that is making some diseases, such as methicillion-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, so difficult to treat,” microbiologist Stuart Levy, president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics said, according to the News and Advance. There is little or no difference in the health of those who use antibacterial soap as opposed to people who stay away from the product, according to the News and Advance.
     The occasional application of an antibacterial product is not the sole cause of the production of the “superbug.” However, the antibacterial enriched products hold no advantage over the use of good old soap and water. “Soaps and lotions that include antibacterial agents have no benefit over ordinary soap and water, but more research is needed to allay or substantiate concern that these substances may be leading to increased rates of antibiotic resistance,” the Food and Drug Administration’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee concluded, according to AMedNews.com. The research is still in progress and the results are not definitive yet. Most students will continue to use the antibacterial products until more conclusive research surfaces. “Until doctors prove that the items that contain the antibacterial components are unhealthy, I am still going to use it,” Rose said.

Contact Amanda Sullivan at amsullivan3@liberty.edu.

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