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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 66-69

Soaps and infection control: From chemistry to microbiology

1 Department of Microbiology, Tata Medical Center, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
2 Department of Clinical Hematology and Medical Administration, Tata Medical Center, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Bhattacharya
Tata Medical Center, 14 Major Arterial Road (EW), New Town, Kolkata - 700 156, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jacm.jacm_1_17

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Context: Soap and water cleaning of hands and body surfaces is one of the primary aspects of infection prevention and control. A systematic study of commonly used soaps is lacking. AIMS: To investigate: (a) whether the so-called medicated soaps have a composition which is significantly different from ordinary soaps, (b) whether the ingredients responsible for enhanced antimicrobial activity posed any health risk and (c) whether the medicated soaps offered any specific advantages over non-medicated soaps. Settings and Design: Study was done with soaps available in Indian market, used predominantly in community settings but also in hospitals. Materials and Methods: Chemical composition was checked from package labels. No chemical or microbiological tests were done to verify actual composition against stated composition. Maximum retail prices as mentioned on the pack label were noted. Statistical Analysis Used: None. Results: Soaps contain a multiplicity of ingredients. Exact composition is unknown as none of the soaps studied mentioned percentages. A number of antimicrobial agents were identified in soaps, which included salts of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, sodium chloride, triclocarban, triclosan, cresol compounds and certain quaternary ammonium compounds. No clear advantage was noted of the so-called ‘medicated soap’ over ‘non-medicated soaps’ in terms of ingredients or their actions. Certain medicated soaps may contain ingredients which may have a deleterious effect on microbial flora (generation of resistance) or human health (enzyme inhibition). Conclusion: While purchasing soaps either for domestic use or for hospital infection control, we need to pay due attention to its composition.

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