Are we washing off our skin bacteria using antibacterial soap?

18 May 2008

Question

Are we washing off our skin bacteria using antibacterial soap? Can we put them back perhaps with some sort of lime yoghurt?

Answer

We put this question to Marcello Riggio:

Marcello - Yeah! It's very important to have good hand hygiene but most of the bacteria on the surface of the skin are fairly harmless unless they get into the bloodstream where they can cause nasty infections. The most well-known is MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. We don't need to worry about bacteria on the skin. They don't cause any harm so long as they stay on the surface of the skin. Skin is a very good barrier and they don't get into the bloodstream.

Chris - If you strip away the good ones is there not a danger the bad ones might take over?

Marcello - There certainly is, actually but if you've got bad bacteria on the skin then as long as they don't get into the bloodstream they're not going to cause any major problems.

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