Written By Kevin Kerfoot / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
The antimicrobial soap additive triclosan worsens fatty liver disease in mice, say researchers with the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. The study - published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - also details the molecular mechanisms by which triclosan disrupts metabolism and the gut microbiome while also stripping away liver cells' natural protections.
These findings have only been observed in mice that ingested triclosan, but since these same molecular systems also operate in humans, the new information will help researchers better understand risk factors for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – or NAFLD - and give them a new place to start in designing potential interventions to prevent and mitigate the condition.
"Triclosan's increasingly broad use in consumer products presents a risk of liver toxicity for humans," says Robert H. Tukey, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pharmacology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "Our study shows that common factors that we encounter in every-day life - the ubiquitous presence of triclosan, together with the prevalence of high consumption of dietary fat - constitute a good recipe for the development of fatty liver disease in mice. This underlying mechanism now gives us a basis on which to develop potential therapies for toxicant-associated NAFLD.”
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that over-the-counter wash products can no longer contain triclosan, given that it has not been proven to be safe or more effective than washing with plain soap and water. However, the antimicrobial is still found in some household and medical-grade products, as well as aquatic ecosystems, including sources of drinking water.
In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cited both safety concerns and lack of efficacy when it recommended against adding triclosan to consumer soaps, but these guidelines have not discouraged companies from adding it to other products.
Triclosan added to toothpaste and mouthwash to kill bacteria inadvertently makes such cells stronger
Triclosan is the active ingredient responsible for the antibacterial property marketed on many consumer products. It is added to toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics and even to clothing, baby toys and credit cards with the intention of reducing or preventing bacterial growth.
A new study in mice uncovers the extent to which triclosan exposure limits the body's ability to respond to antibiotic treatment for urinary tract infection, and sheds new light on the cellular mechanism that allows triclosan to interfere with antibiotic treatment.
Research from Washington University in St. Louis finds that a chemical that is supposed to kill bacteria is actually making them stronger and more capable of surviving antibiotic treatment. The study - published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy - suggests that triclosan exposure may inadvertently drive bacteria into a state in which they are able to tolerate normally lethal concentrations of antibiotics - including those antibiotics that are commonly used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Triclosan exposure allowed the bacteria to escape death by antibiotics, and the protective property was not limited to any single family of antibiotics. In fact, multiple antibiotics that are considered unique in how they kill cells were less effective at killing bacteria exposed to triclosan.
"In order to effectively kill bacterial cells, triclosan is added to products at high concentrations," says Petra Levin, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences. “What's more, triclosan is very stable. It lingers in the body and in the environment for a long time. Triclosan increased the number of surviving bacterial cells substantially.”
“Normally, one in a million cells survives antibiotics, and a functioning immune system can control them, but triclosan was shifting the number of cells. Instead of only one in a million bacteria surviving, one in 10 organisms survived after 20 hours. Now, the immune system is overwhelmed. My hope is that this study will serve as a warning that will help us rethink the importance of antimicrobials in consumer products."
"Triclosan increased tolerance to a wide breadth of antibiotics," added Corey Westfall, postdoctoral scholar in the Levin lab, who treated bacterial cells with bactericidal antibiotics and tracked their ability to survive over time. "Ciprofloxacin - also known as Cipro - was the most interesting one to us because it is a fluoroquinolone that interferes with DNA replication and is the most common antibiotic used to treat UTIs. Triclosan increased tolerance to a wide breadth of antibiotics.”
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With over 30 years of writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines and corporate communications, Kevin Kerfoot writes about natural health, nutrition, skincare and oral hygiene for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletters.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.