Doctor's Group Questions Antibacterial Soaps
Dr. Koop.com/Reuters, June 15, 2000
CHICAGO -- Antibacterial soaps may be no more effective against germs than common soap, and could contribute to the threat posed by drug-resistant bacterial strains, the leading U.S. doctor's group said this week.
The American Medical Association's (AMA) House of Delegates asked government regulators to expedite their review of antibacterial products and determine if they might contribute to the health threat created by excessive use of antibiotics.
The AMA's House of Delegates, meeting in Chicago, stopped short of recommending that customers avoid using the popular soaps, lotions and mouthwashes that advertise themselves as fighting bacteria or microbes, but it did express strong doubts about the products' usefulness.
"There's no evidence that they do any good and there's reason to suspect that they could contribute to a problem" by helping to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria, said Myron Genel, chairman of the AMA's Council on Scientific Affairs and a Yale University pediatrician.
Genel said use of the products may contribute to the well-recognized problem created by excessive use of antibiotics that has led to mutated bacterial strains that are resistant to drugs. Washing with plain soap might be just as effective in battling illness, he said.
Genel said the AMA, which has roughly 300,000 members, decided it will monitor the Food and Drug Administration's review of the products.
A trade group, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, had lobbied the AMA against having any position on antibacterial products, he said.
In a statement, the trade group said the public should not be deterred from using antibacterial products, which can "kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause skin infections, intestinal illnesses or other commonly transmitted diseases.
"These include potentially fatal illnesses caused by bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli," it said.
The AMA's action was based on "untested scientific theory" that personal-care products may cause antibiotic resistance, and the group instead blamed what it said were 50 million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics that doctors write each year.
Products Lead to Resistance?
Excessive use of antibiotics has led to resistance. That means many bacteria are no longer killed by the antibiotics that used to kill them.
This is a major problem leading to the development of more severe diseases, and in some cases death, when in the past the problem might have been easy to cure.
There's no proof that antibacterial products cause the same problem, but we need an answer in order to fight this dangerous trend.
The bottom line: Don't insist on antibiotics when you see your doctor. Remember that antibiotics work against bacteria -- not viruses -- and they're not always necessary. Don't overuse antibacterial products until we know more about them.
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