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Infectious Diseases

Super Microbes

11/25/2002

Question:

Hello,

Is it true that our society is creating "super" microbes by the overuse of antibacterial soaps? What can we now do to discourage the human creation of microbes that cannot be cured with our modern medicine? Thank you very much for your time.

Answer:

The use of a number of antiseptic solutions has been useful in reducing the number of microorganisms that we are exposed to. However, their use has a downside. That is, they decrease our exposure to them and that may foster a decrease in immunity to microbes. Also, the constant exposure to antiseptic solutions can induce resistance which may become a problem. The most immediate concern is the overuse of antibiotics not only by the medical system but also by those involved in the agriculture industry. The constant exposure of animals to antibiotics also increases resistance among microbes and that may contribute to the spread of resistance. In fact, most antibiotic use is not by humans but rather for agriculture.

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Response by:

George S Deepe, Jr, MD George S Deepe, Jr, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
Director of Infectious Diseases
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati