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Year in review: Microbes exploit their killer

Triclosan promotes antibiotic resistance

6:00am, December 15, 2014
person washing hands

ANTIBACTERIAL BACKFIRE  Triclosan, an unregulated antimicrobial chemical found in consumer products such as soaps and toothpaste, may aid, rather than deter, microbes that invade people’s bodies.


Microbes have turned our pharmaceutical weapons into allies. This year, triclosan, an antimicrobial agent, topped the list of chemical traitors, aiding rather than deterring germs.

Leaked from products such as toothpaste and hand soap, low doses of triclosan promote drug resistance in germs that cause difficult-to-treat infections. In the environment, the chemical can disrupt hormone regulation in some animals, such as fish. (Data are lacking on health effects in humans.)

Despite the ongoing battle against antibiotic-resistant microbes (SN: 10/4/14, p. 22), triclosan remains omnipresent in household and personal care products. Humans take up the

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