Washington | A common antimicrobial and antifungal agent found in many consumer products ranging from hand soaps to toys and even toothpaste, may rapidly disrupt bacterial communities found in the gut, a new study suggests. Triclosan is one of the most common antimicrobial agents in the world, found in shampoos, deodorants, toothpastes, mouth washes, kitchen utensils, cutting boards, toys, bedding, socks and trash bags, researchers said.
It continues to be used in medical settings, and can be easily absorbed through the skin, they said. There is now a growing awareness of the importance of the bacteria in our gut microbiome for human health, and the overuse of antibiotics that can lead to the rise of ‘superbugs’, said Thomas Sharpton from Oregon State University (OSU) in the US.
Researchers found that triclosan exposure caused rapid changes in both the diversity and composition of the microbiome in zebrafish. It is not clear what the implications may be for animal or human health, but scientists believe that compromising of the bacteria in the intestinal tract may contribute to the development or severity of disease.
Some bacteria were more susceptible to the impact of triclosan than others, such as the family Enterobacteriaceae; and others were more resilient, such as the genus Pseudomonas. Scientists now have evidence that intestinal bacteria may have metabolic, cardiovascular, autoimmune and neurological impacts, and concerns about overuse of these agents are valid, said Christopher Gaulke, researcher in the OSU College of Science.
Cumulative impacts are also possible. We need to do significantly more evaluation of their effects, some of which might be dramatic and long lasting,s aid Gaulke.
The gut-associated microbiome performs vital functions for human health, prevents colonisation with pathogens, stimulates the development of the immune system, and produces micronutrients needed by the host. Dysfunction of this microbiome has been associated with human disease, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and malnutrition, the scientists pointed out in their study.
Humans are routinely exposed to an array of chemicals, metals, preservatives, microbes and nutrients, some of which may be beneficial, some innocuous, and others harmful, the researchers said.
Part of the strength of the present study is developing improved ways, through rapid screening of zebrafish, to more easily determine which compounds may be acceptable and which are toxic, researchers said. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
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