FAQs about Bacterial Resistance

Q: Do you believe that the expanding use of antibacterial ingredients in consumer hand and body wash products could lead to “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotic drugs?

A: No. There is a common misperception that antibacterial soaps can lead to antibiotic resistance. However, antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics. In the more than 30 years that antibacterial wash products have been used by consumers and medical professionals, we have not seen any evidence that their use contributes to antibiotic resistance. If there were a link between antibacterial use and antibiotic resistance, experts believe it would have been seen by now in settings, such as hospitals, where antibacterial products are used extensively to stop the spread of bacteria and antibiotic resistance is closely monitored.

Q: Then how do you explain the increase in types of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic drugs?

A: The emergence of resistant bacteria is widely attributed by public health experts to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics.

Q: What do you think of the Tufts University research published in Nature magazine on the creation of a strain of bacteria that was resistant to triclosan?

A: The laboratory findings simply demonstrate one potential explanation for how triclosan works, and should not be considered predictive of what happens to bacteria that consumers encounter in the real world. In the more than 30 years that antibacterial wash products containing triclosan have been used by consumers and health professionals, triclosan has never been shown to promote antibacterial or antibiotic resistance. In fact, hospitals use antibacterial products every day to stop the spread of bacteria, including resistant bacteria.

Q: What are the differences between laboratory findings and the real world?

A: In the laboratory, bacteria are grown in a highly controlled environment under optimal temperature, moisture and nutritional conditions. In the home, these conditions vary substantially and there are other factors (for example, chlorine in water, surface cleaners, etc.) that would limit their survival.

Q: Has industry studied the antibiotic resistance issue?

A: Yes, the industry has worked with experts on antibiotic resistance and has extensively reviewed the available data. The experts concluded that no link has been established between the use of antibacterial wash products and bacterial resistance. Industry believes that continued monitoring of this issue is part of good product stewardship.

Q: If there is no public health issue with the use of antibacterial wash products, why do some scientists continue to raise concerns?

A: Many scientists and health experts are very concerned about the emergence of resistance to antibiotics throughout the world. The implications of this situation have spurred discussions aimed at finding appropriate methods for increasing our understanding about the causes of resistance.

Q: What is the benefit of using an antibacterial hand wash product over plain soap and water?

A: Washing with plain soap and water removes many germs from the hands. Antibacterial soaps contain an active ingredient that keeps the number of germs at a reduced level for an extended period of time, providing improved germ control. There are some people, such as those taking care of young children or someone in the home who is ill, who should consider paying particular attention to cleanliness and may want to consider using an antibacterial soap.

Q: Is it possible that the low level of antibacterial ingredient remaining on the skin after using an antibacterial wash product could lead to resistant bacteria?

A: We have not seen any evidence that this has occurred in the more than 30 years that antibacterial wash products have been in use.