Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts July 1999
Short Cuts:HEALTH BEAT
Germs are everywhere, and so are products that fight them, such
as antibacterial cleansers and specially treated plastics. But is
all this germ warfare making life safer? Not really, say most
experts. Washing one's hands is still the best way to kill germs
after a day spent gripping the handrail on the mall escalator.
Although antibacterial soaps might be slightly better for cleaning
open cuts, they don't kill bugs like staphylococcus or E. coli any
better than a vigorous scrub with soap and water.
Rumors of "super bugs" germs with a greater resistance to
antibacterial agents have some consumers concerned. Steven Blanke,
Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and biochemistry, specializes
in bacterial pathogenesis at the University of Houston. He admits
"super bugs" are a possible threat but largely because humans'
habits are helping them thrive. "When people take antibiotics
incorrectly, they kill 90 percent of the bacteria, the weakest
ones," says Blanke. "When&they don't finish the course, the
stronger bugs [can] regroup."
Blanke says humans are "bathed" in bacteria all the time, and
"not only is that not harmful, we need this normal flora."
He adds, "The No. 1 defense against bacteria is a healthy immune
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