A group of scholars at the University of Michigan found that an antibacterial agent that is found in soaps creeps into the nose and facilitates infections. This agent is called triclosan, which is also present in toothpastes and mouthwashes.

Dr. Luca Malvezzi, ENT specialist at Humanitas helps us to clarify.

“Triclosan is a chlorophenol active on many bacteria, and it was widely used as an antiseptic and disinfectant, even in a hospital setting. In Italy, as well as in other countries, triclosan is found in soaps, deodorants, household cleaners, but also in toothpastes and mouthwashes, or in cosmetics. Up to now the only side effects reported were contact dermatitis or skin irritations.

The tom-toms media last period put triclosan under the magnifying glass fearing risk of severe skin irritation, collapse and convulsions.

The first and necessary clarification refers to the news given by the Scientific Committee for Cosmetic products from the European Commission, which in 2002 concluded that based on the available clinical evidence, the use of triclosan in the conditions currently in force, is safe.

Triclosan blocks an enzyme required for bacterial growth, and small amounts allow a full antibacterial action. Its massive spread would be at the centre of its criticisms in relation to the opportunity for the development of bacterial resistance to common antibiotics used in the medical field, which would have important consequences especially in a hospital setting.

The study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan refers precisely to this aspect reporting the potential danger of Staphylococcus aureus due to nasal infections. However, a clarification must be made. In recent years the nasal cytology has allowed us to know more about the characteristics of the nasal mucosa: even in the absence of allergy, the nasal mucosa can respond to various stimuli with characteristics similar to those of allergic persons, by virtue of the prevalence of eosinophilic, neutrophilic, mast cells or macrophages.

Mucosa with these characteristics can be irritated with irritants such as chlorine, which in predisposing conditions may facilitate the activation of bacterial agents as the notorious Staphylococcus Aureus, that live in the nose, and cause hyperemia and mucosal or sinus infection. Therefore, not only can the triclosan be dangerous, but it can also cause us to minimize the use of soaps or deodorants, as well as the chlorine used to disinfect swimming pools.”

By Simona Camarda