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Antibiotic Chemicals Accumulating in Human Noses

Update Date: Apr 08, 2014 05:02 PM EDT

Antibiotic chemicals may be accumulating in our noses, according to a new study.

Scientists discovered that an antimicrobial agent in common household soaps, shampoos and toothpastes builds up in human noses, where it encourages the growth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Researchers said the latest findings are worrying because increase the risk of infection in some people.

After collecting samples from several adult participants researchers found that traces of triclosan, a man-made compound used in a range of antibacterial personal care products such as soaps, toothpastes, kitchen surfaces, clothes and medical equipment, in the nasal passages of 41 percent of people sampled.

Furthermore, participants with higher levels of triclosan in their bodies had Staphylococcus aureus colonization, which could trigger infection in some people.

Senior study author Blaise Boles, PhD, an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the university, said that the chemical has been around for the past four decades and has been added into many antibacterial household products within the past decade.

Previous studies have also found traces of the triclosan in human fluids including serum, urine and milk. Other mammal studies revealed that high concentrations of triclosan can disturb the endocrine system and reduce heart and skeletal muscle function.

"It's really common in hand soaps, toothpastes and mouthwashes but there's no evidence it does a better job than regular soap," Boles said in a news release. "This agent may have unintended consequences in our bodies. It could promote S. aureus nasal colonization, putting some people at increased risk for infection."

Previous studies also revealed that S. aureus grown in the presence of triclosan was better able to attach to human proteins, and that rats exposed to triclosan were more vulnerable to S. aureus nasal colonization.

"In light of the significant use of triclosan in consumer products and its widespread environmental contamination, our data combined with previous studies showing impacts of triclosan on the endocrine system and muscle function suggest that a reevaluation of triclosan in consumer products is urgently needed," researchers wrote in the study.

The findings are published in the journal mBio®.

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