Scientists Warn That Triclosan – Found in Toothpaste and Toys – Triggers Harm to the Gut

Research by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an international team traces the toxic impact of a common consumer product on the gut microbiome and induces colitis.

A new study conducted in mice demonstrates precisely how triclosan, an antimicrobial found in toothpaste, toys, and thousands of other products, can trigger gut inflammation.

An international team of researchers led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Hong Kong Baptist University identified the bacteria, and even specific enzymes, that trigger triclosan’s harmful effects. Moreover, studies in mice suggest these bacterial enzymes can be blocked from driving intestinal damage.

The findings were published in Nature Communications.

“By identifying the culprit bacteria, new approaches could be developed for the diagnoses, prevention, and treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases,” said study author Matthew Redinbo, a chemistry and microbiology professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts & Sciences and UNC School of Medicine.

Previous research has shown triclosan’s toxicity, but the new study provides a closer look at the changes caused in the gut’s microscopic population.

Researchers connected specific gut microbial enzymes, notably gut microbial beta-glucuronidase (GUS) proteins, with triclosan and showed these enzymes drive triclosan to wreak havoc in the gut.

Knowing which bacterial proteins were the culprits, the team used a microbiome-targeted inhibitor to block triclosan processing in the gut. Blocking this process in mice prevented damage to the colon and symptoms of colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease.

The study provides new clues about management of IBD among the growing number of people diagnosed with the disease. IBD can be managed for long periods of time only to flare up out of seemingly nowhere.

Study authors suggest the need for better understanding of the impact of environmental chemicals on gut health.

Triclosan used to be widely available in antibacterial soaps marketed to consumers. But in 2016, the Food and Drug Administration ordered it removed from handwashing products used in homes and hospital settings because of concerns it contributed to more resistant bacteria.

But triclosan remains ubiquitous as an ingredient added to cosmetics, yoga mats and other athletic clothes and gear to reduce bacterial contamination. It’s also routinely used in many toothpastes – with FDA approval – since it has been found to prevent gingivitis.

Triclosan appears to be readily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, leading study authors to write, “the safety of triclosan and related compounds should be reconsidered given their potential for intestinal damage.”

Reference: “Microbial enzymes induce colitis by reactivating triclosan in the mouse gastrointestinal tract” by Jianan Zhang, Morgan E. Walker, Katherine Z. Sanidad, Hongna Zhang, Yanshan Liang, Ermin Zhao, Katherine Chacon-Vargas, Vladimir Yeliseyev, Julie Parsonnet, Thomas D. Haggerty, Guangqiang Wang, Joshua B. Simpson, Parth B. Jariwala, Violet V. Beaty, Jun Yang, Haixia Yang, Anand Panigrahy, Lisa M. Minter, Daeyoung Kim, John G. Gibbons, LinShu Liu, Zhengze Li, Hang Xiao, Valentina Borlandelli, Hermen S. Overkleeft, Erica W. Cloer, Michael B. Major, Dennis Goldfarb, Zongwei Cai, Matthew R. Redinbo and Guodong Zhang, 10 January 2022, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-27762-y

The National Institutes of Health, through grants to several authors, the Hong Kong Research Grants Council and the National Science Foundation funded the study, “Microbial enzymes induce colitis by reactivating triclosan in the mouse gastrointestinal tract.”

InflammationPopularToxicologyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Comments ( 40 )
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  • tommy2tone

    There is always something.

  • Tom E Coward

    There is always something.

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  • Judith

    So what toothpaste should we use!

  • JJ

    Always something quoted from above ^^ or below. Obviously you don’t suffer from UC. It’s a crippling disease .. can’t go anywhere without .. I’m THANKFUL FOR any information which has the potential to help

  • MW

    Stop eating toothpaste!

  • Barbara M Holland

    These days seems like everything is harmful. LORD, HAVE MERCY!

  • Inego Montoya

    You know what all these items have in common other than what is in this article? YOU DONT INGEST THEM!!! If you don’t ingest them or allow you kid to do the same, it is a non-issue. But that is how we are headed as a society on the path of stupidity.

  • Shroud

    Nah, this claim is false. I trust the science.

  • Jerrod

    I know I have ulcerative colitis and it sucks bad it can and will flare up out of nowhere it is literally cause me to lose 50 lb in a week because I could not eat anything so I agree it would be nice to know what toothpaste to use then and also information involving the possible help of prevention of flare-ups for this disease I’m down to here because like I said it is painful and no good

  • Jerrod

    Well inego montoya .. obviously none of us are eating the toothpaste but when you brush your teeth you will swallow some of that sometimes and not on purpose even still you still absorb it through your bloodstream in your mouth so maybe think before you speak we’re not children you know what I’m saying obviously we don’t eat toothpaste jackass

  • Mac Mhathghamhuin

    WHY are they blaming gut bacteria for biological reactions caused by TRICLOSAN’S inert TOXICITY? Wondering who exactly funded this….

  • Newbraski Alford

    What toothpaste should we use then, looks like I will brush my teeth with baking soda only then.

  • RoBear

    My question is…
    HOW does it get TO the gut. Are people regularly swallowing toothpaste?

  • Johnny

    Eat more tooth paste probably safer than a lot of things. Many things are dangerous. Live on the edge!

  • Enki

    why not baking soda. we have lost the ways of our grand parent and generations prior to them. if you continue to use the profit over health products you will continue to be a peasant of the system.

  • Norma C Roberts-Hakizimana

    WHAT!! Triclosan was banned in Minnesota years ago!

  • Pj

    To those who say that you just don’t ingest them need to realize that that the body can absorb things in other ways besides eating them. So I wouldn’t be to fast to call someone else stupid!

  • Alana Nolan

    Read labels. Triclosan has been shown to cause thyroid problems and may be spiking reproductive hormones causing fertility problems. They used to have to pay to dispose of it (it’s a molecular cousin of agent orange dioxin) and now they’re selling it to us.

  • CB

    The guy saying we don’t invest them and therefore won’t have problems, you know that we absorb things through our skin and tissue in our mouths, right? We literally soak it right up into our bodies and it affects us. Chewing tobacco works that way as well. You think people were addicted to just leaving it in there and spitting it out for fun? UC is no joke. Any helpful information like this can save a life.

  • Jadakiss

    I hope shroud is an american. Because this is science. Not false. Its from ScIeNtIsTs and he or she dont understand anything. English may not be their first language. Also, the best toothpaste are those eith natural ingrediants. Read the labels to see which product has what.

  • Robert

    So,which brands of toothpaste contain Triclosan? Or is it in every one of them. I don’t use toothpaste.I use only my toothbrush and clean my tongue with it then thoroughly gargle with Listerine.

  • Robert

    Well, I know using toothpaste on a soft cloth and rubbing it hard on your car headlights works pretty well. Besides it being cheaper than all those car cleaning stuff, we might not have to throw all our various brands of toothpaste in the garbage afterall. God, I’m a genius!

  • PMDR

    Triclosan is NOT used in toothpaste any longer. The FDA gave manufacturers until 2017 to prove the products were safe and effective with actual study results to prove it, and none of the manufacturers did so. Too much work and maybe it wasn’t safe anyway.

    They all opted to reformulate the products to eliminate Triclosan and the new version have totally replaced the old versions. Any Triclosan toothpaste still sold is going to be pockets of rare new-old stock, not something easily bought at your local stores.

  • Bill P.

    Does Colgate really still use triclosan? I stopped buying it years ago for that reason.

  • Jeff_Yap

    @RoBear

    We can absorb it through our skin, it’s in our food..

    “Because of its use in so many products, it enters the environment, it enters the sewage system,” says Ted Schettler, MD, science director for the Science and Environment Health Network in Eugene, OR. “Triclosan has been detected in fresh water streams and rivers all over the country. … It’s been measured in fish that we eat and in vegetables, so we can get it indirectly as it moves through.”

    https://www.webmd.com/beauty/news/20180705/banned-from-soap-triclosan-in-toothpaste

  • Dee

    This makes absolute sense,I used to get violently ill over the years beginning in the 2000s with different types and brands of toothpaste. Since I have only used homeopathic remedies to brush my teeth and changed my diet (no processed food) I have reversed

  • Joseph

    Just proves that the more advanced we become the more we realize that getting back to natural living is the healthiest way to live even if it’s harder to do.

  • Joh

    I challenge anyone to find a toothpaste that currently has triclosat in it. It has been over a year since I have seen any on the shelves.This is old news!

  • YuFukinDum

    Hello jackasses, ever heard of sublingual medicine? Ever tried chewing tabbacco? Ever dropped, God forbid, a mind altering tab of lsd?

  • ron spaniada

    idiots dont tell what brand contains it

  • Linda Marie

    What about pet supplies, dog toothpaste, and antibiotics in veteranary care? Is it being dumped in those products too causing us humans extra misery?

  • LC

    Neither Crest nor Sensodyne have Tryclosan.

  • Infidel

    Absorption under the tongue is the 3rd fastest way to get something into your bloodstream, following absorption through the eye, and direct injection. Inhalation is right up there too.

  • Frankie5x

    You can brush your teeth with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide if you need a worthwhile substitute to wash your mouth and teeth. Use plenty of water and dilute the peroxide before direct contact with teeth.

  • cko

    how long have scientists are gonna wait to tell ppl permafrost is melting into the sea. who cares bout tooth paste wtf i always knew that
    how many ppl actually cares bout the smokes that’s going up to the atmosphere that causes global warming

  • Barb auten

    Baking soda is an erosion compound removing the enamel off the teeth over a period of time but adding hydrogen peroxid makes it act faster on removing enamel… I have a dentist bill that says so as he told me why my enamel was almost non existent without asking me what I used to brush with he asked me if I was using baking soda etc.. Answer was an alarming YES FYI

  • Jc

    Make your own toothpaste with baking soda. Coconut oil. Peppermint oil. And Stevia.