The epidemic that made antibacterial soap fashionable

The epidemic that made antibacterial soap fashionable

In the 1960s, a strain of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus was discovered, which tends to infect wounds after surgery . However, it eventually became resistant to antibiotics, especially in the 1900s, when it became resistant to methicillin.

This produced an epidemic in many hospitals, back in the 1990s. Until then, the use of liquid soaps was not very frequent: but just then it became fashionable due to the fear of contagion.

Staphylococcus aureus

In the UK, methicillin- resistant Staphylococus aureus (MRSA) infections accounted for half of all infections attributed to hospitals. In 2006 alone, 2,000 deaths due to MRSA had already been recorded in this country alone .

A hand cleaning protocol was then imposed every time the doctor came into contact with a patient. Outside the hospitals, in addition, a public health campaign was launched that extolled the virtues of clean hands and focused on the promotion of antibacterial soaps, which contain agents such as triclosan. As Mark Miodownik explains in his book Liquids :

These soaps were sold as superior to traditional soap in preventing the transmission of germs; The hype was successful and sparked a huge demand for antibacterial soaps, despite the fact that there was no evidence that they were more effective than lifelong soapy water.

In fact, recent research suggests that there is no strong evidence that antibacterial soaps are actually more effective, and that they may be more harmful than beneficial. Therefore, experts agree to reduce its use to strictly necessary cases : only in a context of medical prescription would the use of these antiseptics be justified, since simple soap is effective and sufficient in most cases.