March 6, 2024 | Jerry Bergman

Have You Thanked God for Bacteria Today?

More research documents that
bacteria are essential for good health

 

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

For decades the perception that bacteria as a whole are harmful has dominated society. We bought anti-bacterial soaps that claimed they kill 99.9 percent of bacteria. One advertisement claimed that “the fresh scent of Dial® Antibacterial Defense Spring Water® hand soap. ….  contains aloe vera and kills more than 99.9% of bacteria while being gentle on skin.”[1] Although a valid concern is body odor, which is often caused by bacteria, as more is learned about the critical role bacteria plays in the body, we realize that efforts to sterilize the body of bacteria appear to be a mistake.

Spending time outdoors might be more healthful than fighting bacteria with chemicals.

The main ingredients in soaps used to kill bacteria and fungi is hexachlorophene and 3,4,4′-trichlorocarbanilide.[2] The problem is, hexachlorophene, a topical anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent has been found in the lab to produce paralysis in rats, rabbits, cats, and pigs and blindness in sheep.[3] Small amounts of hexachlorophene are absorbed through the skin of both animals and humans. In addition to the neurological effects of hexachlorophene, it uncouples oxidative phosphorylation which may cause body changes resulting in temperature elevation.[4]

In 1972, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted production and distribution of products containing more than one percent of hexachlorophene. Currently,  most products containing more than one percent hexachlorophene are available only with a doctor’s prescription. In addition, 3,4,4′-trichlorocarbanilide (Triclocarban or TCC) is also an antimicrobial agent used to control bacterial and fungal growth. It is commonly used in soaps, body washes, and detergents. The TCC is then washed down the drain and enters wastewater treatment plants.[5]  Evidence also exists that 3,4,4′-trichlorocarbanilide is also toxic in small amounts.[6] The problem is not the use of small amounts of these toxic chemicals for a short time, but lifetime use and exposure to the many different skin products that contain these toxins.

Benefits vs Risks

Does the harm of bacteria justify the long-term use of these products; a concern called the risk-benefit ratio? Many users have concluded that the risk benefit ratio supports their use to kill bacteria largely because the common perception is bacteria in general are harmful and worth the small risk that these chemicals entail. In contrast to this common perception research analysis of 1,100 children concluded that

The gut microbiomes of babies who later develop allergies or asthma look different from those of children who don’t go on to have allergies. A study of more than 1,100 children found that the presence of certain harmless bacteria in an infant’s gut primes the gut to allow other helpful bacteria to follow. If gut bacteria colonization is disrupted or delayed within the first year of life, kids are more likely to be diagnosed with eczema, food allergies, allergic rhinitis or asthma at age five.[7]

Bifidobacterium (Wikimedia Commons)

Research by others has reached the same conclusions. For example, Galeana-Cadena et al. concluded that the presence of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Faecalibacterium, and Bacteroides in the gut microbiome is associated with protection against asthma.[8]

It is well-known that vaginal birth and breastfeeding impart many vital bacteria into the infant’s gut microbiomes. Likewise, normal exposure to germs in the first year of a baby’s life, such as the common act of kissing babies, imparts large numbers of bacteria into the child. Furthermore, exposure to bacteria, such as having older siblings, attending day care, living on a farm, and having pets all are correlated with  protecting against allergies. These exposures all decrease the probability of eczema, food allergies, allergic rhinitis, and asthma.

Less Exposure to Bacteria In Our Modern World           

The widespread use of anti-bacterial soaps, creams, and lotions today, plus spending less time outside, more exposure to antibiotics, and an increase in C-sections, all interfere with the natural accumulation of bacteria in the guts of young children.[9] Furthermore, the presence of certain innocuous bacteria early in life “creates a welcoming environment that allows other, helpful bacteria to follow in predictable waves. If those first ‘keystone’ bacteria are missing, the subsequent waves of colonization are delayed or disrupted.”[10] In short, microbial exposures in early life help greatly to condition the immune system in such a way that affects it for the rest of the person’s life. As Denworth concluded: “Children with the highest risk for allergies are missing important health-promoting bacteria in their first year” of life.[11]

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

“Bad” Bacteria Are Mutated or Misplaced Beneficial Bacteria

The bacteria that are not beneficial are harmful because they were mutated or were altered by an inappropriate plasmid transfer from one bacterium into another.

The common skin bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Wikimedia Commons

Other important causes of bacterial disease include a weak immune system (the immune system at age 50 is half as effective than at age 20) or a compromised immune system (such as caused by AIDS). Yet other bacteria-caused disease occurs when bacteria (and also viruses) invade a non-host organism, such as when the virus moved from its AIDS host (a monkey) enters humans as a result of  consuming monkey meat, or invades parts of the organism where it does not belong (such as when the bacteria found on the skin staphylococcus aureus gets in the body cavity, or enters the bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs, or heart).

Antony Van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)

Summary

This research adds to the conclusion that, when God created life, He pronounced it good, and this pronouncement includes bacteria. The fact is, the vast number of bacteria are beneficial. When Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria, he believed that they “glorify the Lord and Creator of the Universe.”

References

[1] https://www.dialsoap.com/products/hand-soap/liquid/antibacterial/spring-water-liquid-hand-soap.html.

[2] Jungermann, Eric, et al. “Comparative evaluation of antibacterial soaps.” Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society 44(4):232-234; https://aocs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1007/BF02639264, 1967.

[3] Kimbrough, Renate. “Hexachlorophene: Toxicity and use as an antibacterial agent.” Essays in Toxicology. 7:99-120, 1966.

[4] Kimbrough, Renate. “Review of recent evidence of toxic effects of hexachlorophene.” American Academy of Pediatrics 51(2):391-394, 1973.

[5] Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “Triclocarban (3,4,4′-trichlorocarbanilide): Aquatic toxicity profile”, 2023.

[6] He, Liting, et al. “Evaluation of 3,4,4,9-trichlorocarbanilide to zebrafish developmental toxicity based on transcriptomics analysis.” Chemosphere 278:130349, September 2021.

[7] Sharma, Pankaj. Today in science: Good bacteria can prevent allergies in kids. Scientific American; https://scientistpankaj.blogspot.com/2024/02/today-in-science-good-bacteria-can.html, 27 February 2024.

[8] Galeana-Cadena, David. “Winds of change a tale of: Asthma and microbiome.” Frontiers of Microbiology DOI 10.3389/fmicb.2023.1295215, 11 December 2023.

[9] Denworth, Lydia. “Babies’ Gut Bacteria Predict Allergy Risk.” Scientific American Magazine 330(3):72-73,  March 2024. Denworth, Lydia. Helpful gut bacteria seem to reduce allergic disease in kids. Scientific American; https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/helpful-gut-bacteria-seem-to-reduce-allergic-disease-in-kids/, 1 March 2024.

[10] Denworth, 2024, p. 73.

[11] Denworth, 2024, p. 73.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,900 publications in 14 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,800 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 60 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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