In a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, researchers found triclosan, an antimicrobial found in toothpaste, toys and thousands of other products, can trigger gut inflammation.
They identified the bacteria, and even specific enzymes, that trigger triclosan’s harmful effects. Moreover, these bacterial enzymes can be blocked from driving intestinal damage.
Previous research has shown triclosan’s toxicity, but the current study provides a closer look at the changes caused in the gut’s microscopic population.
In the study, researchers connected specific gut microbial enzymes, notably gut microbial beta-glucuronidase (GUS) proteins, with triclosan and showed these enzymes drive triclosan to wreak havoc in the gut.
Knowing which bacterial proteins were the culprits, the team used a microbiome-targeted inhibitor to block triclosan processing in the gut.
Blocking this process in mice prevented damage to the colon and symptoms of colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease.
The study provides new clues about the management of IBD among the growing number of people diagnosed with the disease. IBD can be managed for long periods of time only to flare up out of seemingly nowhere.
Study authors suggest the need for a better understanding of the impact of environmental chemicals on gut health.
Triclosan used to be widely available in antibacterial soaps marketed to consumers.
But in 2016, the Food and Drug Administration ordered it removed from handwashing products used in homes and hospital settings because of concerns it contributed to more resistant bacteria.
But triclosan remains ubiquitous as an ingredient added to cosmetics, yoga mats and other athletic clothes and gear to reduce bacterial contamination.
It’s also routinely used in many kinds of toothpaste—with FDA approval—since it has been found to prevent gingivitis.
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The study is published in Nature Communications. One author of the study is Matthew Redinbo.
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