Research, Technology

Why and how soap kills germs

Hands should be washed with soap, each of us is about this.heard since childhood. According to experts, if you thoroughly lather your hands and wash them for 20 seconds, this will get rid of pathogenic microbes on the skin. It is especially important to wash your hands after coming from the street and before eating. If this is not done, you may encounter a number of problems, as we talked about earlier. But have you ever thought about how exactly soap works - only washes away germs or kills them? According to experts, soap is able to destroy microorganisms. And the point here is not in some specific antimicrobial additives that are contained in certain types of soap. The ability to destroy microbes is inherent in the molecular structure itself. But we, of course, are interested in exactly how it affects microbes. Let's try to understand this further.

Soap can destroy pathogens

How soap kills pathogens

As the physician and professor at the CaliforniaUniversity of Berkeley Lee Riley, the molecular structure of soap is a "head" attached to a "tail". The head is hydrophilic and the tail is hydrophobic - water repellent. This tail is able to attach to fats. As is known, all bacteria, as well as some viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, have a lipid membrane. The latter, in fact, is a fatty membrane.

As a result, microorganisms are vulnerable to soap.The molecular “tail” literally pierces the lipid membrane, after which they die. True, not all pathogens die from soap. Some of them have very strong cell walls. They survive even after the hydrophobic tail penetrates the membrane. But in this case, the soap molecules isolate viruses and bacteria, as a result of which they no longer pose any threat to the human body.

Bacteria and viruses have a lipid shell to which a soap molecule attaches.

Dr. John Schwartzberg, infectious disease expertdiseases, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, confirms the words of his colleague - “when we apply soap to our hands, the“ tails ”of the molecules attach to the fatty membrane of the pathogen cell, and a hydrophilic head remains outside. As a result, a small ball of soap molecules is formed, which is called micelles. Since the outer part of the micelles is hydrophilic, after they capture the pathogen, they are then easily washed off the hands with water.”

This means that if there is a washbasin near you andsoap, it is not at all necessary to treat your hands with alcohol in order, for example, to protect yourself from coronavirus. It is enough just to wash them thoroughly, and, in this case, time is even more important than the movements that you make while washing your hands.

The effectiveness of soap against pathogens has been proven by a number of studies

Efficacy of soap against pathogens

Study on the effectiveness of soap against pathogenswas held in 2010. It was attended by 20 volunteers. They have contaminated their hands with bacteria that cause diarrhea. After that, the participants were asked to do one of three actions - wash their hands with soap, wash their hands without soap, or not wash at all. In total, this procedure was performed 460 times.

After performing certain actions, the hands of peoplechecked. As a result, scientists found dangerous bacteria in 44% of people who did not wash their hands at all, which is not surprising. Among those who washed their hands with water, 23% of volunteers had bacteria on their hands. In the group that washed their hands with soap, only 8% of people had the bacteria. The results of this study are published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

According to experts, using antibacterial soap is pointless and even dangerous.

Do I need to use antibacterial soap?

If any soap can kill bacteria,why do you need antibacterial soap? According to John Schwartzberg, using antibacterial soap really doesn't make sense. In addition, it can even be dangerous on a global scale, as it stimulates the evolution of bacteria, that is, due to the use of this soap, microorganisms resistant to antibacterial substances may appear. By the way, superbugs arose on Earth long before people began to use antibiotics for medical purposes, as we talked about earlier.

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In addition, antibacterial soap destroys andgood bacteria that our body needs. But, as mentioned above, do not forget about the time of washing your hands. It takes at least 20 seconds for a soap molecule to penetrate the “tail” into a bacterium through the lipid membrane. If you wash your hands quickly, there may not be a protective effect at all. Perhaps this is the result of the above study - bacteria were found in 8% of people. Perhaps these people were not washing their hands properly.