Monday, November 19, 2007

Say No to Antibacterial Soap

Did you happen to watch CBS's 60 Minutes episode about MRSA? MRSA stands for methyl resistant staph aureus (or, more properly, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). I've known about MRSA, the ominously labeled "community acquired" version (as opposed to the kind that hospital patients fear), for about a year or so, though its been around much longer, especially in the UK. But it's here in the US now, too.

MRSA is fancy way of saying flesh-eating bacteria.

Used to be if you got a staph infection, well, it probably wasn't too serious.

Now however, the staph bacteria living on your skin might be resistant to most antibiotics. And we have only ourselves to blame.

Mainly, it's because as a society we failed to put two and two together.

I mean, we've known the principles of evolution since Darwin, and those principles have proved true in the nearly 150 years since they were advanced.

We also know that bacteria churn through generations like mad; some divide every 15 minutes.

So we should have recognized that applying a selective pressure on organisms that throw off iterative chances to survive antibiotics every 15 minutes would lead to something like MRSA.

Well, some people did, but no one listened to them.

Anyhow, now that such bacteria are out and about everywhere, there is something you can do right now: stop using antibacterial hand soap.

I'm serious. Antibacterial soap doesn't remove bacteria from you hands any more efficiently than regular soap. All you are doing is driving normal, healthy bacteria toward antibiotic resistant status. In truth, all the antibiotic soaps, cleansers, and wipes in your house are doing the same thing.

See, you're covered in bacteria. More than that, you are filled with bacteria. You may not realize it, but you are a human-bacteria hybrid. When you begin to kill off portions of yourself by overusing antibiotic, bad things happen.

Antibiotics were a wondrous cure, but we've overused and abused them, and their effectiveness is fast approaching 0. Don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution. Save the antibiotics for when and where they are actually needed.

Also, if you're a legislator, know a legislator, or feel like bringing up this topic with a legislator, urge a ban on the routine use of antibiotics in farm-bred meat. This practice is probably the single biggest source of antibiotic resistant bacteria. At least one company is already stepping away from this practice: Tyson says it'll stop putting antibiotics in its chicken.
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