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Antibacterial Compound May Contribute to Allergies

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Scientists at Johns Hopkins have found that children with high levels of antibacterial compounds in their urine also have high levels of IgE antibodies in their blood. IgE antibodies are a marker for immune system reactivity that is most often seen as allergy.

When the immune system becomes hypervigilant and churns out lots of IgE, it may mistakenly defend the child against foods, pollen, pet dander and other common substances. The scientists found that triclosan and certain parabens were the only antimicrobial compounds studied that were linked with high IgE. Kids with the most urinary triclosan were twice as likely to have allergies as those with the lowest levels.

So far, the connection is only an association. The scientists plan to do a long-term study on babies exposed to antibacterial products to determine the risk of developing allergies.

[Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, online June 18, 2012]

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3 Comments

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Highly, highly recommend "Justinian's Flea" pp.167-184 for a lay person's digest and comprehensible explanation of bacteria from its "genesis" to our present day-or at least
Justinian's time. Also, check out NPR's SciFri June 15 program
"Bacterial Armor Imaged, Down to the Details".

Can "hand sanitizers" be causing these high IgE levels?

The article above suggests that Triclosan and parabens may cause high IgE levels (often a sign of allergy).

However, it may be that sensitive children (those who are atopic or allergic by nature) are using more products containing Triclosan and parabens than their counterparts who do not have underlying sensitivities.

As a dermatologist, I do find that children who are atopic/allergic have more skincare products used on their skin, both prescription and nonprescription. Many skin products contain parabens. Also these sensitive children often have parents who are more concerned about their children's skincare and I could see that handwashing would be more stressed in their families. Triclosan is a common antibacterial ingredient in antibacterial cleansing products.

So it is possible that "allergic" patients are simply exposed to more Triclosan and parabens, not that these products cause allergy.

I am waiting for studies to show us know the true explanation. In the meantime, I personally feel that man uses far too many chemicals casually. I personally avoid chemicals when possible, and choose products with simple, less potentially toxic ingredients. It takes many years for toxicities to show up when new chemicals are introduced.

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