Personal care products have been made for keeping people clean and healthy, right? That should be the case. A new study, however, claims otherwise, saying the antimicrobial agent in these products has been the cause of about 19,000 deaths in the United States in 2005.

Triclosan Promotes Staphylococcus aureus Nasal Colonization, a study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the biocide triclosan antimicrobial agent has been with us for more than 40 years and has been an ingredient in common household toothpastes, shampoos, soaps, clothing, medical equipment and kitchen surfaces.

Problem is, this agent may bring more harm than good. How? By colonizing the throats and noses of humans. The said bacteria are devious pathogens that have already colonized about 30 percent of the population.

"It's really common in hand soaps, toothpastes and mouthwashes but there's no evidence it does a better job than regular soap," said senior study author Blaise Boles, PhD.

Once the triclosan gets inside human noses, a colonization of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria may be promoted that poses health risks, for instance are on people under surgery procedures.

"It could promote S. aureus nasal colonization, putting some people at increased risk for infection," said Boyles, who is also University of Michigan's assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

Interestingly, many medical devices, such as catheters and sutures, have triclosan ingredient to prevent infections, the study says. 

Man-made antimicrobial agent is also present in the environment as a contaminant. It has also been detected in particular human fluids such as milk, urine and serum. The study also found out that it was present in about 41 percent of adults sampled.

The study warns that high levels of triclosan in mammals can negatively affect the endocrine system as well as reduce skeletal muscle and heart function.

Further studies also disclose that such bacteria maturing with triclosan in its environment attach better to human proteins. Meanwhile, triclosan-exposed rats are more prone to said nasal colonization of the bacteria.

Apparently, triclosan faces minimal regulation in the US and continues to be widely used, despite latest reviews of its potential health impact. The authors of the study suggested that there should be urgent reevaluation consumer products with triclosan.

Dr. Boyles expressed his plan to conduct further surveys to establish if the anti-microbial agent may influence microbial colonization at more human body sites. It also remains a mystery why the bacteria successfully colonize certain individuals while there are others who remain non-colonized. 

The study has been published by mBio®, the American Society for Microbiology's online open-access journal. Other authors of the study are Nancy G. Love, Sudeshna Ghosh and Adnan K. Syed.

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