Throw your soap
away right now
Dean of biology department speaks about MRSA
By: Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman
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 death.
"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 estimates 19,000 Americans die from CA-MRSA,
and nearly 100,000 are infected annually. According to Hudson, that trend is on
"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
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 weekends.
"I know an incredible amount about a very small
corner of the universe," he said. Thankfully, he is willing to share his
To avoid becoming infected by MRSA, Dr. Hudson
- Frequent hand washing with hot water and soap (regular soap,
not antibacterial soap).
- Avoidance of broad-spectrum antibiotics (ask your doctor to
- If you are prescribed antibiotics for a bacterial infection,
take them all (don't save some for later).
- Never take antibiotics for viral infections (they don't work
- If you have a cut, wash it with soap and water ("aggressively
- If you aren't near a water source, alcohol based sanitizers
and products like Hibistat wipes will work in a pinch.
- Avoid foods that have antibiotics in them (livestock are
often fed feed that contains antibiotics).
- Do not share personal items (like towels or
- Use lotion to avoid cracked skin (the bacteria can infiltrate
even hard to see breaks in skin).
Hudson has been a guest on Mike Collins' radio show,
Charlotte Talks, twice, and once on Collins' television show, Charlotte Now, in
the past month. You can listen to the broadcasts online at WFAE and
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