MadSci Network: Microbiology

Re: Antibacterial soaps and evolution.

Date: Wed Feb 4 20:36:11 1998
Posted By: David Beck, MadSci Admin
Area of science: Microbiology
ID: 886624952.Mi

Do antibacterial soaps contribute to evolution of "super" bacteria?

The first question that begs to be asked, is are antibacterial soaps antibacterial?

Strictly speaking any soap, detergent is antibacterial. Detergents have both a hydrophobic and a hydrophilic portion and thus can integrate into hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces, and thus disrupt that surface. This is why soap works on most things. But not all soaps are built the same. Some soaps have longer hydrophobic areas, thus better for disrupting hydrophobic surfaces such as bacterial membranes, others have much shorter hydrophobic surfaces, and are less useful against bacterial membranes.

How antibacterial does soap have to be before it can claim to be antibacterial, well, it is soap, that is antibacterial, no matter how short the hydrophobic area is. The bottom line is that most antibacterial soaps have bacteria living on and in them. If you want to seterilize a surface no one would use soap. Soap is for cleaning, for disrupting surfaces, 10% bleach or ethanol are for sterilizing a surface. They kill most things.

Don't get me wrong, the bacteria I work on is equisitely sensitive to soap, but most bacteria aren't.

A "super" bug is resistant to drugs, not soap. When was the last time you chewed on a bar a soap to cure your diarhea?

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