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Toothpaste, other personal care products linked to antibiotic resistance

They might form part of just about everyone’s morning ritual but Australian researchers have suggested that products like toothpaste and hand wash include an ingredient that could be contributing to antibiotic resistance.

A study led by the University of Queensland’s Dr Jianhua Guo focused on triclosan, a compound used in more than 2000 personal care products.

Guo, who sits in the university’s Advanced Water Management Centre, said: “Wastewater from residential areas has similar or even higher levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes compared to hospitals, where you would expect greater antibiotic concentrations.

“We then wondered whether non-antibiotic, antimicrobial (NAAM) chemicals such as triclosan can directly induce antibiotic resistance.

“These chemicals are used in much larger quantities at an everyday level, so you end up with high residual levels in the wider environment, which can induce multi-drug resistance,” he said.

Guo said the discovery provides strong evidence that triclosan is accelerating the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Professor Zhiguo Yua, director of the Advanced Water Management Centre, said the discovery should be a wake-up call to reevaluate the potential impact of such chemicals.

“While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of triclosan in antibacterial soap, the previous lack of unequivocal evidence prevented such a policy being adopted in other countries,” he said.

The fact overuse and misuse of antibiotics could create superbugs is well known, Guo said, but added until now researchers were unaware that other chemicals could also induce antibiotic resistance.

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