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Question: Soap After Sports - Antibacterial or Regular?

Quantum Jim (610382) writes | more than 6 years ago

Biotech 9

Got a little rant and a question for anyone reading. Again, a popular science article exaggerates the conclusions. A recent /. story mentioned Anti-Bacterial Soap No Better Than Plain Soap. Now most of the comments seem to sermonize against all antibacterial products. I don't completely disagree, but the article doesn't support extreme opinions. Of course, the story in question only concerned itself wi

Got a little rant and a question for anyone reading. Again, a popular science article exaggerates the conclusions. A recent /. story mentioned Anti-Bacterial Soap No Better Than Plain Soap. Now most of the comments seem to sermonize against all antibacterial products. I don't completely disagree, but the article doesn't support extreme opinions. Of course, the story in question only concerned itself with one type of antibacterial soap and with one use of that soap: namely washing hands before eating food. Allison Aiello sums it up:

The soaps containing triclosan used in the community setting are no more effective than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms, as well as reducing bacteria on the hands.

Now for my question. I practice Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a lot. I used to use a regular soap in the shower, but I caught some severe conjunctivitis three times in the same eye in the past six months despite trying to be clean. The pink eye was very bad, my eyelids swelled up, and the doctor needed a broad-based antibiotic to take care of them. That indicates to me that the infections were caused by bacteria - probably staph.

I am scared to death of MRSA. Now I use antibacterial Dial bar soap as well as some anti-dandruff shampoo to discourage colonies of fungi - with the intention of preventing ringworm (and dandruff I suppose). That seems to have been working better, but this article concerns me. The article didn't research body washes for athletes, but it does raise the question whether or not antibacterial soap is useful for cleaning up after practices. Which type of soap would be best for cleaning up after athletic activities and why - regular or antibacterial soap?

9 comments

Sick Building Dojo? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 6 years ago | (#20252235)

I can't imagine Judo or Jujitsu of any type including a severe infection problem, even for the eyes. Especially if your opponents were not showing symptoms. Is there a possibility that the building you practice in was built on a landfill?

Re:Sick Building Dojo? (1)

tuxette (731067) | more than 6 years ago | (#20258027)

I can't imagine Judo or Jujitsu of any type including a severe infection problem, even for the eyes.

You're joking, right?

MRSA (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#20252321)

Would anti-bacterial soap be effective against MRSA? My impression was that it tends to lead to the increase in MRSA (in others), and that it would be ineffective against it for the same reason.

Re:MRSA (1)

Quantum Jim (610382) | more than 6 years ago | (#20259201)

Confused, I quickly looked up some conflicting studies. One study asserts that there is little documented benefit to antibacterial soaps (Perencevich 2001 [nih.gov]), however I am suspicious of the methodology summarized. I wonder where Perencevich got his information; though, I haven't read it beyond the abstract (costs money). Other studies clearly show antibacterial soaps removing staph and other bacteria better than normal soaps (Voss 1975 [nih.gov], Breneman 2000 [nih.gov]). I am not sure if this affects MRSA though. Aiello himself previously showed that antibacterial products in the household setting for 1 year don't seem to create drug resistant strains of bacteria, though he remained skeptical that more research was required (Aiello 2005 [cdc.gov]). I have a gut instinct that he just wanted more studies to confirm his own gut instinct that they should create drug resistant strains and that this negative result discourage him, but I'm paranoid too. :p

It is shown by several studies that using some unspecified types of soap to clean the body prevents infections including MRSA (Playe 2006 [em-news.com], Gantz 2003 [cdc.gov]). Some studies specifically indicate using antibacterial soaps to prevent diseases (Zinderman 2004 [cdc.gov], Lindenmayer 1998 [highwire.org], Levy 2004 [postgradmed.com]). One study in particular stated MRSA mainly infects cuts and scrapes of the skin and suggested using antibacterial soap to prevent infections among a college football team (Begier 2004 [uchicago.edu]).

I agree that abusing antibacterial medications causes MRSA. However, an athlete is not an isolated petri dish. He is recolonized by many strains of bacteria after every practice. MRSA outbreaks seem to be caused when athletes with cuts or scrapes do not clean themselves after practice. The bacteria infect any breaks in the skin. I don't see much evidence that antibacterial soaps cause MRSA outbreaks among the athletes. I don't rule it out either. I do see some evidence that using antibacterial soap could help prevent outbreaks of regular staph and other bacteria than regular soap, though. I also believe overloading on antibacterial stuff in the household can create drug resistive strains, but I am uncertain if antibacterial soap is still bad in the intense environment of a wrestling mat (Hence the reason for this journal entry).

My gut instinct (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#20259383)

My gut instinct is that antibacterial soap is kind of like heavier cars: good for the one using it, but potentially bad for the community as a whole. And, like heavier cars, there are cases where it's no better than the alternative even for the one using it. Common sense tells me (not that I'm proficient in common sense, mind you), that if a bacteria is resistant to many antibiotics it will very likely be as resistant to antibacterial soaps as to regular soaps. (I.e., the soap quality might help kill/remove the bacteria, but the antibiotic in the soap probably ain't doing squat.) I could be wrong, as the number of studies I've done on this is, approximately, zero.

I've reduced my use of antibacterial products under this belief. However, if I had suffered from regular pinkeye that experience had taught me was prevented by antibacterial soap, I'd be using it - even knowing that it was possible that experience was conspiring with coincidence to teach me this lesson.

Re:My gut instinct (1)

Quantum Jim (610382) | more than 6 years ago | (#20259641)

A car analogy, on slashdot? LOL! Good points though. I usually don't modify my behavior based on just beliefs without much good reason such as "low risk, high reward." However like you, I suspect the antibiotic isn't doing much either way TTYTT.

shower gel from the Body Shop (1)

tuxette (731067) | more than 6 years ago | (#20258045)

I refuse to use anti-bacterial anything; it's the day-to-day use of that kind of thing where you really don't need to use that kind of thing that makes bacteria more resistant.

Sometimes I just rinse myself really well after a workout, sometimes I'll use some shower gel. If you feel your eyes are at risk, rinse them with warm water immediately after training.

Re:shower gel from the Body Shop (1)

Quantum Jim (610382) | more than 6 years ago | (#20259395)

Ya that's good advice about rinsing. However, a tatame is different than a household. I did a little bit of research (see my big post above). For one, I didn't find evidence that antibacterial products made much of a difference either way in the household (though misusing antibacterial prescriptions OTOH definitely could cause drug resistance). In the dojo, you are exposed to lots more germs too. I wonder if being drug resistant has a trade-off which is why it isn't common (i.e. the soap still kills 99% of the bacteria), so when being contaminated again then they are selected out a little again. No evidence, so I'm just guessing here.

Using antibacterial products in the household (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260819)

On a very different note, I have heard that some antibacterial products (such as soap) damage pipes or prevent clog breaking stuff from working. We got a note from our landlords about that about a year ago. I have done no research on it, and I think there might be some bad information out there, but as I'd never heard of it before, I thought I'd throw that possibility out there as well.
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