Soap sense

Antibacterial washes no better

Published: Wednesday 30 November 2005

US scientists have found antibacterial soaps and washes are not any better than plain soap and water in killing germs at homes.

An advisory panel on non-prescription drugs to the Food and Drug Administration, the US, in its report on October 20, 2005, said studies showed clear benefits from hand washing with plain soap, especially when people are taught when and how long to wash. Data on antibacterial soaps, on the contrary, are limited.

The scientists also asked the regulatory body to weigh the risk of creating drug-resistant bacteria through such special soaps and the benefits claimed by their makers.

In a similar study, a scientist at UK's University College London (UCL) said the performance of antibiotic and antiseptic soaps in hospitals should be evaluated. "Bacteria generally do not grow on top of one another. So when we wash our hands, we could actually be killing off harmless commensals (the bacteria that normally thrive in the human body) to the extent that we leave space for other pathogenic bacteria to settle," says Mark Spiegelman of the UCL Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health, in a paper, published in the November issue of Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons (Vol 87, No 6). He suggested it is better to use a plain soap and subsequently dip the hands in a probiotic substance such as yoghurt.

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