Anti Bacterial Soaps don't work....
SILVER SPRING, Maryland (Reuters) - Antibacterial soaps and disposable wipes have not been proven any more effective than regular soap in preventing infections among average consumers, U.S. health experts said on Thursday.
But if plain soap and water are not readily available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a "useful" alternative, the advisory panel said in a unanimous vote.
Panel chairman Dr. Alistair Wood, assistant vice chancellor at Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine, said using plain soap and water was shown to be "pretty effective."
"There was no data I saw that showed antiseptic hand washing is any better," he said.
Consumer products that include bacteria-fighting ingredients should be required to have scientific data proving they prevent infections, the advisory panel also said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has been grappling with the issue for more than 30 years, asked the panelists to weigh the risks of such products for consumers amid concerns they may help create drug-resistant bacteria.
The agency has yet to make a final decision on how to regulate such products, which face many issues similar to antibiotic drugs, but are available over-the-counter.
"We're reexamining the risks to consumers," said FDA microbiologist Colleen Rogers.
FDA officials, who usually follow their experts' advice, could take a variety of actions, from changing product labels to restricting marketing claims.
At issue are antibacterial products that include chemicals such as triclosan, which targets a certain enzyme that bacteria need to live and may linger in the environment. Bacteria can mutate to adapt to such chemicals, scientists say.
Soaps with such bacterial-killing agents, such as Procter & Gamble Co.'s Safeguard and Henkel's Dial have been used for years and are now common households products.
Doctors and other experts are concerned that excessive use of the products, like overuse of antibiotic drugs, will create bacteria-resistant "superbugs."
"Bacteria are not going to be destroyed. They've been here, they've seen dinosaurs come and go... so any attempt to sterilize our home is fraught with failure," said Dr. Stuart Levy, a non-voting panelist and microbiologist at Tufts University in Boston.
Signs of drug-resistant bacteria in hospitals show the bugs are already adapting, he added.
FDA scientists and other experts said studies showed clear benefits from hand washing with plain soap, but data on antibacterial soap was limited.
"There is a lack of evidence that antiseptic soaps provide a benefit beyond plain soap in (the) community setting," said University of Michigan epidemiologist Allison Aiello.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers caused less concern.
While one expert said data did not show they were better than plain soap, others said they do prevent the spread of germs without leaving a residue that can trigger resistance.
Industry groups defended their antibacterial products as safe and necessary to protect consumers.
"The importance of controlling bacteria in the home is no different than in the professional setting," said Elizabeth Anderson, a lawyer for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. "We believe consumers should be assured that the products they are using are the most effective available."
The FDA has been sorting through the issue since 1972. Six years later it asked for more data on triclosan and again in 1994.