Sunday, January 19, 2014

Antibacterial, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

While talking to an office manger of a company who purchased, among other things, hand soap, I stated that I had noticed that she bought antibacterial hand soap. From her perspective it seemed better, hey it is antibacterial, bacteria are bad so let's get soap that kills them. However, I can think of three good reasons NOT to use antibacterial products unless in high risk environments.

1) there is excess exposure to not needed potentially harmful chemicals
2) many of the “good bacteria” that help you and protect you from the “bad bacteria” are kill off by these products
3) these products promote antibiotic resistance in bacteria *

However, this subject brings up another issue. In one of my past biology classes, the professor tried to use antibiotic resistance to demonstrate that “molecules-to-man” evolution was correct. However, there were a number of things he left out. He “forgot” to tell us that microbes scientists have been studying within the last couple hundred years have not evolved into a new type of organism, in fact, they have not even crossed the species barrier to become a new type of bacteria. One type of bacteria, E. Coli, has had its genetic structure changed by natural and human cause in the lab. They have been growing in diverse situations in the labs for millions of generations. Amazingly, these bacteria are still E. Coli. They many have different functions, or less functions, but they still have the characteristics of E. Coli.

You see, antibiotic resistance does not demonstrate “molecules-to-man” evolution, but rather highly designed organisms that are able to protect its population. Within its microbial populations, these antibiotic resistant bacteria do not function optimally under normal situations, but in an antibacterial environments they function well and keep the species alive. So that is the reason you should not use these antibacterial products indiscriminately.

* Antibiotic Resistance is a condition when bacteria become resistant or immune to some chemical that is designed to kill them. In other words, you take penicillin, an antibiotic, and it kills the “bad” bacteria. However, if there are bacteria within that population that are not effected by the antibiotic, then those bacteria will grow uncontrolled. Soon, if all the non-resistant bacteria are killed off, only the resistant ones will be alive. Resistance to antibiotics are caused in one of three ways: 1) some germs already had the resistance, in most any population of bacteria there are a very few bacteria that are resistant already to certain antibiotics, this creates a 'safety net' so that the bacteria will continue to survive even through adverse conditions. However some are even resistant before a certain new antibiotic comes out! 2) Resistance can be transferred from one germ to others, this can be achieved multiple of ways. 3) Some microbes can become resistant to antibiotics through mutation. This is when a gene in an organism is changed from highly organized to one that is degraded. This makes it act different, like it does not have a port that would uptake the antibiotic.

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