Is Your Shampoo Creating Superbugs?

Person shampoo photo

Photo credit: oaii

The overuse of antibiotics isn't the only cause of drug-resistant bacteria. Pollution from compounds in myriad household products could also be fostering antibiotic resistance, according to new research by U.K. scientists at the universities of Birmingham and Warwick.

The study delved into the question of whether pollution from sewage sludge, animal disinfectants, and fabric softeners could be linked to the rise in drug resistance in bacteria. Another issue the scientists tabled was the effect that sewage sludge and animal slurry—tonnes of which farmers apply to their crops every year—has on humans once it enters the soil and water supply. Their conclusion? The sludge and slurry comprises a "cocktail of antibiotic and chemical traces," many of which can be traced back to commonly used household products, including personal-care products such as shampoo.

Nearly all household and personal-care products use industrial compounds collectively known as biocides, the research team said, noting that traces of these chemicals wind up in the sludge and slurry U.K. farmers use. Using techniques not unlike DNA fingerprinting, the scientists were able to detect the presence of antibiotic-resistant genes in soil samples gathered from all across the U.K.

More on drug-resistant bacteria
Keep Antibiotics Working
Soil Bacteria Thrive on Antibiotics: A Potential Reservoir of Antibiotic-Resistance
Antibacterial Cleaners Do More Harm Than Good
Quick Tip: Don't Use Antibacterial Soap

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