CBS News had the story FDA gets tough on antibacterial soaps. For a long time we have been fans of liquid soap, but have been worried that all of them seem to be antibacterial. We had worried that the use of these soaps would promote the growth of resistant bacteria. There was no mention of this in the CBS report. In comments from a soap industry representative the CBS interviewer never raised the issue and the spokesman never addressed it.
I began to wonder if I had been confusing antibacterial with antibiotic. I found an article that settled it for me.
Wired has the article FDA Scrutinizes Antibacterial Products for Hormonal Disruption, Bacterial Resistance. In the discussion, the aricle quoted the FDA report.
Since publication of the 1994 TFM, there is new information raising concerns about the impact of widespread antiseptic use on the development of antimicrobial resistance. Bacteria use some of the same resistance mechanisms against both antiseptics and antibiotics. Thus, the use of antiseptic active ingredients with resistance mechanisms in common with antibiotics may have the potential to select for bacterial strains that are also resistant to clinically important antibiotics, adding to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Laboratory studies of some of the antiseptic active ingredients evaluated in this proposed rule demonstrate the development of reduced susceptibility to antiseptic active ingredients and some antibiotics after growth in nonlethal amounts of the antiseptic (i.e., low-to-moderate concentrations of antiseptic). These studies provide ample evidence of bacterial resistance mechanisms that could select for antiseptic or antibiotic resistance in the natural setting.
The impact on bacterial resistance in the natural setting (rather than in the laboratory) has not been extensively evaluated. The existing data are very limited in scope. (pp. 37-38)
So who at CBS was assigned to their coverage of the story? They have a medical doctor on staff to cover health issues. Perhaps Scott Pelley isn’t aware enough about the ramifications of this issue to even know which reporter to assign it to. Apparently the reporter didn’t know either.
I left the comment at CBS News:
What about the promotion of antibacterial resistant bacteria? How could you leave out that concern from your report? How could you let the industry spokesman off without his addressing this issue? Without addressing this issue, the FDA concern almost seems minor.
Maybe there is an object lesson for advertisers here. The same CBS show did attack vitamins with a story that says that they are mostly useless. Perhaps the vitamin manufacturers have been cutting back on their advertising spending on CBS, and this is a shot across their bow as to what can happen to them compared to the people who do spend a lot on advertising.