Many health experts warned consumers that antibacterial hygiene products such as toothpaste and soaps do more harm than good because these disrupt the body’s normal bacterial flora. But a new study published on May 18 in the journal mSphere reveals that personal care products containing the antibiotic triclosan do not impact oral and gut microbiota.

“There are a lot of people who are fearful of triclosan, but we didn’t find anything to support that concern in our study,” says principal study investigator Julie Parsonnet from the Stanford School of Medicine. “When you throw most antibiotics into humans, they are an atom bomb on the microbiota, but we found that when people are exposed to triclosan through normal household products, it does not cause a major blow to our microbial ecosystems.”

Triclosan has been eliminated from soaps and body washes in the US after the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 required manufacturers to prove that the products containing it prevents diseases. Still, this antibiotic can be found in toothpaste such as Colgate Total for its efficacy in fighting plaque and gingivitis.

hygiene products

Toothpaste with triclosan does not alter oral microbiome. Credit: Rauch Family Dentistry

A survey in 2008 revealed that 75 percent of human urine samples contained triclosan. However, recently, experts have claimed that the use of triclosan might have added to bacteria’s resistance against antibiotics.

The Stanford researchers examined 13 healthy people in a randomised double-blind test for four months. Over this period, the team asked the participants to use triclosan-containing or non-triclosan hygiene products, conducting analyses of the participants’ blood, stool, urine and oral samples for the antibiotic’s effect on bacterial flora.

The investigators found triclosan had a great effect in urine. However, the antibiotic did not significantly affect the participants’ gut and oral microbiome.

“We found that some organisms were changed a little bit, but there was no major blow to oral flora or gut flora,” concludes Parsonnet. “For people who are very fearful of triclosan, this study should be reassuring.”