By Helen Albert, Senior MedWire Reporter
Research suggests that the antibacterial chemical triclosan, commonly used in personal-care products and antibacterial soaps, may impair the function of cardiac and skeletal muscle.
"Triclosan is found in virtually everyone's home and is pervasive in the environment," said study investigator Isaac Pessah (University of California, Davis, USA) in a press statement.
"These findings provide strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health."
To test the effects of triclosan on muscle activity, the researchers exposed mice and fish to levels of the chemical equivalent to those that humans might be exposed to in the environment. They also looked at the in vitro effects of triclosan on heart and skeletal muscle cell lines.
As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, mice injected with intraperitoneal triclosan (≥12.50 mg/kg) had a reduction in heart function measures as great as 25% following 20 minutes exposure to triclosan. They also had an 18% reduction in grip strength (total force produced by limbs) for up to 60 minutes after being injected.
"The effects of triclosan on cardiac function were really dramatic," said co-author Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, also from the University of California, Davis. "Although triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potent cardiac depressant in our models."
In addition to the effects on mice, larval fathead minnows swimming in water containing triclosan (≥0.52 µM) had significantly reduced swimming activity compared with controls after 7 days of exposure.
The in vitro experiments showed that triclosan exposure prevented heart and skeletal muscle fibers from contracting properly by impairing calcium channel function and ultimately resulting in muscle failure.
"We were surprised by the large degree to which muscle activity was impaired in very different organisms and in both cardiac and skeletal muscle," said Bruce Hammock, also a study co-author, based at the University of California, Davis.
Chiamvimonvat highlighted the potential problems that triclosan could cause for cardiac patients.
"In patients with underlying heart failure, triclosan could have significant effects because it is so widely used," he said.
"However, without additional studies, it would be difficult for a physician to distinguish between natural disease progression and an environmental factor such as triclosan."
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