October 30, 2007

HANDWASHING: Better than antibacterial agents:

The general advice for avoiding infection is basic hygiene — washing hands or using alcohol-based sanitizers, keeping scrapes covered until healed and refraining from sharing personal items like towels and cosmetics.

But some recent laboratory studies suggest that antibacterial products containing triclosan may not be the best way to stay clean. Instead of wiping out bacteria randomly, the way regular soap or alcohol-based products do, triclosan may inhibit the growth of bacteria in a way that leaves a larger proportion of resistant bacteria behind, according to lab studies at Tufts and Colorado State Universities, among others.

The concerns are still theoretical at the moment, but of course by the time they’re not it’ll be a problem. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue with this:

Soap companies say the worry about triclosan takes the focus away from the real culprit: the abuse of antibiotics and the need for better hygiene in general.

Unlike illegal drugs, abuse of antibiotics raises the risk of harming many, many other people. And hand-washing is always good.

Plus, this is your skin infection, in pictures.