New research from the University of Birmingham has shed light on how a common household cleaner is driving the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria. This research found that bacteria having developed resistance to Triclosan-containing consumer products simultaneously developed resistance to Quinolone type antibiotics. 1 This alarming realization may held shed light on how many common household products may ultimately be rendering many antibiotics ineffective.
The exact pathways in which bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics aren’t known, though Science has come a long way in understanding them. Antibiotic resistant bacteria were initially thought to be confined to hospitals and medical facilities. Such places are hotbeds for having many bacteria, and also exposing those bacteria to many cleaning agents. Over time, this constant exposure to sterilization has signaled an evolution of defense mechanisms in some species of bacteria. Perhaps the most well-known of these bacteria is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This sometimes deadly bacteria is common among medical facilities, and can lead to such conditions as pneumonia, blood infections, and sepsis. These types of mutant bacteria have evolved defense mechanisms after excessive and prolonged exposure to antibacterial compounds. This type of bacterial resistance is a growing danger to modern health, and now classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the largest threats to our future as a species.2 Resistance to one antibiotic compound is dangerous enough, but there are now reports of these pathogenic bacteria being resistant to multiple types of bacteriocides. This type of resistance is named Multi-Drug Resistance (MDR) and represents a very real threat.
Significance of New Data
The team lead by Dr. Mark Webber of the Institute of Microbiology & Infection at the University of Birmingham has shown antibiotic resistance can potentially develop from the exposure to non-human used antibiotic agents. Simply put, a bacteria could develop antibiotic resistance after being exposed to kitchen cleaner. This shocking new realization paints a grim future for the current excessive use of synthetic industrial cleaners. This study focused on the development of Quinolone resistance after exposure to the biocidal compound triclosan, which is a common ingredient in many consumer products. Triclosan can be found in toothpaste, hand soap, body wash, and some cosmetic products. Long before this research painted a grim picture of the safety issues associated with triclosan, researchers found it to affect thyroid hormones in animal studies 3 While alarming, this type of response was not seen in other human studies 4 which could perhaps be explained by varying minimal effective doses. Dr. Webber has previously investigated the role of tricolsan resistance among Salmonella bacteria, finding a single exposure can often give rise to better resistance than wild-type strains.5 This new research has shown that not only does Tricolsan drive resistance after exposure to Salmonella, but that it can also drive simultaneous resistance to widely-used antibiotics.
MDR resistance bacteria possess a powerful potential to cannibalize human health in ways; many yet unknown. The FDA has publicly declared that over the counter type antibacterial agents—those containing tricolsan for example—aren’t effective at stopping infectious disease. 6 They concluded that there simply isn’t enough Science to prove these types of antibacterial soaps are any more effective than washing with soap and water. This new research by Dr. Webber and his team however prove that there is evidence that the use of such chemicals could fuel bacterial resistance to other types of antibiotic agents—namely those used in human medical practice. Practically, using antibacterial handsoap in your home likely won’t have a tremendous effect on the evolution of MDR bacteria. These hotzones for these types of resistant bacteria are those places such as hospitals and commercial processing facilities that expose wide-scale consumer goods to such agents. These act like bacterial distribution centers in many ways, constantly exposing bacteria to new cleaning agents.
- https://doi.org/10.1093/jac/dkx201 ↵
- http://www.who.int/drugresistance/documents/surveillancereport/en/ ↵
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20562219 ↵
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22197412 ↵
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18388112 ↵
- https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm ↵