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Anti-bacterial cleaners/soaps

Steven Enkemann enkemans at dc37a.nci.nih.gov
Tue Aug 1 12:46:55 EST 1995


> I recently noticed that there are more and more anti-bacterial
> cleaners/soaps etc. In the light of emerging/ re-emerging
> diseases (such as antibiotic resistent viral/bacterial
> infections), might there be any harmful effects in the future
> using more and more disinfecting cleaning agents ?
> 
> (I know this might sound funny, but I believe it's worth a
> thought!)
> 
>                                                     
> CHEERS...
> 
> Robert   
> 
   I'm assuming that you're referring to the advertisments on TV.  This is
clearly the advertisers misleading the ignorant public.  All soaps are
anti-bacterial. But are they truely useful disinfectants? Not really. 
Killing 99% of the bacteria is not sufficient because of the rapid growth
rate of many organisms.  But the average person doesn't know that.
   Disinfectants work in very different ways than antibiotics.  They
chemically denature the organism or disrupt its structure.  There are very
few defenses for this and it is very unlikely for an organism to evolve a
mechanism for withstanding this harsh treatment without that organism
becoming obligated to exist continuously in a harsh environment. 
Disinfectants such as lysol have been around for years an they are still
just as effective as ever.   
   There is however another potential problem with the proliferation of
disinfectants as a portion of personal hygene.  Every human being has
normal flora associated with every outer surface of their body.  These
organisms residing upon us are living off of nutrients we ingest or
excrete and do not cause disease.  These harmless bacteria occupy all body
surfaces and prevent harmful bacteria from colonizing us.  Too much
disinfection of body surfaces could reduce the presence of beneficial
bacteria and create opportunities for colonization by disease causing
bacteria.  
   If it ain't broke don't fix it.  In other words, if you're not sick lay
off the disinfectants.

Steven A. Enkemann PhD.



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