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Popular Mouthwash May Be Fueling Antibiotic Resistance


WomanRinsingMouth-850x400 A popular antiseptic mouthwash can relieve gingivitis by eradicating plaque-forming bacteria in the mouth. However, this benefit comes with a downside – it’s fueling the antibiotic resistance of a deadly microbe.

Superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, present an ominous threat to health, causing scores of illnesses and fatalities worldwide. A new study is the first to link antibiotic resistance to this common antiseptic.

Is Your Mouthwash Creating a Superbug Your Immune System Can’t Fight?

In the research by the American Society for Microbiology, scientists found the chemical chlorhexidine, the active ingredient of Corsodyl, makes some disease-producing bacteria become immune to the action of antibiotics. The study focused on Klebsiella pneumoniae, a microbe often picked up in hospitals that causes meningitis, pneumonia and septicemia. When exposed to products containing chlorhexidine, the microbe developed resistance to colistin, an antibiotic used to treat infections when no other drug works. Since the chemical reduces the effectiveness of the last-resort drug, it poses quite a peril.

Aside from mouthwash, chlorhexidine is present in many disinfectants and antiseptics used in hospitals. The rate of Klebsiella pneumoniae is increasing in these facilities, so the scientists involved in the study believe the chemical is fueling part of the superbug problem that is making a hospital stay more dangerous and deadly.

“Chlorhexidine is a critical part of current infection control practices,” said coauthor J. Mark Sutton, scientific leader at Public Health England’s National Infections Service. “The development of increased resistance to this compound has potential implications for our ability to prevent infections during routine and emergency surgery, and during admission to hospitals.”

The Collective Use of Chlorhexidine Mouthwash Is Contributing to Superbug Crisis

These results don’t necessarily mean that a person who uses a mouthwash containing chlorhexidine has a greater risk of contracting a superbug. However, when many people use the mouthwash, collectively, it can worsen the problem of antibiotic resistance for everyone. The Daily Mail reports the response of Dr. Huabing Yin of Glasgow University. “If people use mouthwash, they will spit it out in their house, then it goes into waste water. This leaves the compound in the environment and it cannot be removed using normal waste water treatment. If it ends up in a river, it may increase resistance to colistin of aquatic organisms which then can be accumulated in the ecosystem — it can come to affect us all,” he said.

Natural Alternative to Chlorhexidine Mouthwash

Curcumin, the yellow-pigmented component of the spice turmeric, has been researched as an alternative to chlorhexidine for the treatment of gingivitis. A 2012 study published in the Indian Society of Periodontology comparing curcumin mouthwash with chlorhexidine mouthwash found the spice equally as effective as the chemical for improving oral health. In addition, while adverse effects were associated with the use of chlorhexidine, none were seen with the use of curcumin.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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