Bacteria are good. What is bad are the inappropriate use of antibiotics and
the overabundance of dangerous antibacterial soaps. In fact, one of the best
things you can do for your health is to throw your antibacterial soaps away and
never use them again. Failure to do so could lead to a serious infection; even
"It's horrible," said Dr. Michael Hudson, of the active ingredient
in antibacterial soaps, Tryclosan.
Hudson, the dean of UNC Charlotte's
biology department and 26-year student of a bacteria known as Staphylococcus
aureus, uses Ivory soap in his microbiology lab and at home. He urges everyone
to make sure the soaps they use don't say "antibacterial" on their labels
because, though Tryclosan does kill bacteria, it doesn't kill all
"Bacteria is good," said Hudson, who has a healthy respect for
the organisms. "Leave them alone."
Humans are teeming with bacteria,
according to Hudson, who says humans are composed of approximately one trillion
human cells and 100 trillion bacteria cells - making us more bacteria than
human. "Most of the 100 trillion are not capable of causing disease," said
Hudson. "They compete with each other - they keep each other in
But, some bacteria not only cause disease, they kill. The problem
with antibacterial soaps, and the misuse of antibiotics, is that they throw the
body's bacteria-balance out of whack when they kill some and leave others to
become strong and, eventually, resistant to treatment.
antibiotics inappropriately in a number of different ways," said Hudson. As with
antibacterial soaps, he said. "Antibiotics kill many bacteria, but the oddballs
There are hundreds of strains of the staph bacteria Hudson
studies, including Community Acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus
aureus, better known as CA-MRSA. A particularly deadly strain of CA-MRSA killed
a physician's assistant at a nearby hospital two months ago. Hudson has a sample
of that strain in his lab stored in suspended animation, along with hundreds of
"If you run into the [CA-MRSA] strain in my lab," said Hudson on
a recent Charlotte Talks broadcast, "you will die. There is nothing left to
treat it. The worst problem facing humans on the planet is antibacterial
resistance, because we'll be back to the 1930s," said Hudson during the radio
show. "Pretty soon treatment will be amputation."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
19,000 Americans die from CA-MRSA, and nearly 100,000 are infected annually.
According to Hudson, that trend is on the rise.
"It can survive on dry
surfaces without water for long periods of time," said Hudson. He also said the
bacteria lives on our skin, is spread easily between humans, and can live for
long periods of time on surfaces we touch.
Hudson, who practically lives
on campus, works nearly 12-hour days seven days per week. His office is
organized and efficient. A small refrigerator and microwave help keep him fed.
The entire collection of UNC Charlotte basketball bobbleheads and a large
reproduction of a $250,000 award check for the development of a soy-based
bioweapon vaccine overlook his desk. Constantly interrupted during normal
business hours, he does most of his research at night or on the
"I know an incredible amount about a very small corner of the
universe," he said. Thankfully, he is willing to share his knowledge.
avoid becoming infected by MRSA, Dr. Hudson suggests: