Wednesday, August 5, 1998 Published at 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Bugs may defy popular antibiotics
Bugs may develop a resistance to triclosan just like they do to antibiotics
Bugs may develop immunity to triclosan, a popular disinfectant used in soaps, toothpaste and other products.
Until now it was thought they were defenceless against disinfectants like triclosan.
The chemical affects a broad range of bacteria and fungal infections and scientists thought it had too broad an effect to allow bugs to develop immunity.
Researchers have now found that in the case of triclosan it works in a single way to kill the stomach bug E. Coli.
If bacteria mutated in a way that protected them from that attack they could become immune to triclosan altogether.
Antibiotics are losing their potency
Doctors have long warned of the risks of over-use of antibiotics, which work against specific diseases.
In April, the British House of Lords was warned that diseases such as tuberculosis, meningitis and malaria were becoming increasingly resistant to common antibiotics.
Doctors had thought that widespread use of 'broad spectrum' disinfectants like triclosan did not pose the same problem, however.
The researchers at Tufts University of Medicine fear that triclosan could just be one example and that other broad spectrum drugs could also have a similar weakness.