Study reveals Triclosan to have a reverse effect against bacteria

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Triclosan is an antibacterial compound that is a part of many common products i.e. toothpaste, liquid soap, dishwashing liquid soap, deodorants, bedding, toys, and even trash bags.

The purpose to add this chemical is to kill all the opportunistic bacteria that may cause disease. But the new study has falsified this assumption by revealing that triclosan might have an entirely opposite effect. The results showed that triclosan increases the growth of bacteria and helps them to become resilient against common antibiotics.

Click here to read the complete research findings.

What does Triclosan do?

The team of investigators set their experiments to study the effect of triclosan along with bactericidal antibiotics. They tested two groups Escherichia coli (E. coli) and MRSA against antibiotics in vitro. One group was exposed to triclosan before antibiotics and the other was not exposed to Triclosan at all. The results showed that Triclosan increased the number of bacterial strains instead of killing them.

Normally, there are least chances for a cell to survive a dose of antibiotics. But using Triclosan has shown a changed nature of cells. It has actually helped in bacteria to pass the antibiotics.

What does this study tell?

The study in mice shows that Triclosan promotes bacterial strains by 100%. In this experiment, the researchers added Triclosan to the drinking water and left it with mice.

Do you know that more than 70% of US citizens appear to have triclosan in their urine. Nearly 10% of these people have it in such a high level that makes a common bacterium like E. coli from stop growing.

These mice were then treated with the antibiotic ciprofloxacin. Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone, which works by interfering with DNA replication. For UTI’s it is one of the most effective medicines, all over the world.

After this whole procedure, mice with high triclosan in their urine had a higher number of bacteria in their bladder. This bacterial load was a lot more than those rodents, which were not exposed to Triclosan. The difference in bacterial growth shows that triclosan does play some role in it.

Suggestions on the use of triclosan

The researcher suggests studying the mechanisms which help triclosan to bring these effects. They assume this mediator to be a small molecule called ppGpp. It helps by inhibiting the growth of particular cells.

This PpGpp also blocks the biosynthetic pathways that otherwise creates new cells. These may include DNA, RNA, proteins etc. Usually, this mechanism of ppGpp shows under stress.

All antibiotics take an action by targeting DNA synthesis. But when ppGpp blocks the DNA biosynthesis pathway. It gets difficult for antibiotics like Cipro to kill bacteria.

The trigger for activating ppGpp was indeed triclosan, which was proved when the researchers engineered an E. coli strain that didn’t produce any ppGpp. The results were then compared with a strain of E. coli that could.

This study reveals an unexpected consequence of high concentrations of antimicrobials in consumer products including toothpaste. It needs to be reevaluated for the costs and effects of the prophylactic use of triclosan and more bacteriostatic compounds.


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Areeba Hussain
The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health.


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