Antibacterial Products Don't Cut Germs

No Fewer Household Bacteria in Homes Using Anti-Germ Products

May 21, 2003 -- Party on, germs. Houses cleaned with antibacterial products have just as many household bacteria as those cleaned with regular products.

That's the news from germ-hunting teams doing a one-time probe of bathrooms and kitchens of 38 Boston- and Cincinnati-area homes. The teams, led by Tufts University researcher Bonnie Marshall, found lots of germs. Homes cleaned with antibacterial products had just as many germs.

Another scary finding: Homes have lots of bacteria that are resistant to at least one antibiotic drug. It was "common" to find bugs resistant to several antibiotics, Marshall reported at this week's meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

This study revealed a lot of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the home, Marshall and colleagues write in their presentation abstract. However, there were no significant differences in the overall levels of bacteria or frequencies of antibiotic resistance between homes using or not using antibacterial products.

Kitchens, the researchers found, had about four times more potentially harmful germs than bathrooms. The places with the most bacteria: Kitchen sponges and kitchen sink drains.

Antibacterial products are used on hospital surfaces where germs are likely to build up. Lots of household products now contain these chemicals. Because these chemicals linger on surfaces, researchers worry that, over time, they will encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs. The new study shows that there are a lot of these bad bugs out there.

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SOURCES: American Society for Microbiology, 103rd General meeting, Washington, D.C., May 18-22, 2003. News release, American Society for Microbiology.
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