Curiosity Corner: Understanding Antibacterial Soap | Curiosity corners

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Qquestion: Dr Wilson, certain soaps and cleansers are advertised to “kill 99.99% of germs”. How do they know this and what is murder? (Asked by an anonymous cyberspace disinfectant.)

Answer: Germs are microorganisms, and the term “germ” is generally used to refer to pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria. I guess the percent kill is with bacterial cultures. You clean unwashed hands and inoculate a culture plate on which colonies of bacteria will grow. Then you wash your hands with “antibacterial” soap and take another tampon. The second plate would be virtually empty of colonies if 99.99% of the bacteria were killed. How they get to .99% I don’t know.

Most liquid soaps contain chemicals that kill bacteria, such as alcohol or chlorine. But antibacterial soaps contain additional chemicals, such as triclosan or triclocarbon. Both are very effective at killing bacteria. However, recent studies have shown that antibacterial soaps are no more effective than plain soaps at reducing the levels of bacteria on the hands. The difference is that washing with regular soap requires a longer wash time.

How long? A researcher suggested the time needed to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. (I always visualize surgeons before an operation scrubbing a lot with brushes like you see in old movies or in the “laundry room” on MASH.)

In hospitals, antibacterial soaps can be helpful in killing bacteria that can spread when staff move from patient to patient. However, the widespread use of antibacterial chemicals could cause bacteria to mutate and become resistant to them. In addition, bacteria could become resistant to antibiotics after exposure to chemicals.

I’ll talk more about bacteria next week. Not all bacteria are “germs” (pathogens). In fact, we couldn’t live without some of the little critters.

CPS (curious postscript): “Live in such a way that you are not ashamed to sell your parrot to the gossip of the city. ” – Will Rogers

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email [email protected] The selected questions will appear in the curiosity corner. For the background of Curiosity Corner, go to curiosity-corner.net.

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email [email protected] The selected questions will appear in the curiosity corner. For the background of Curiosity Corner, go to curiosity-corner.net.


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