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August 10, 2017

Antibacterial Exposure in Utero May Harm Developing Child

Exposure to antibacterial chemicals common in soap and lotions can transfer from mother to offspring and cause adverse effects. [skynesher/Getty Images]

  • Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) report that exposure to environmental levels of triclocarban (TCC) can transfer the compound from mother to offspring and interfere with the metabolism of lipids, whose biological function is storing energy, signaling, and acting as structural components of cell membranes.

    The team’s paper (“Maternal Exposure to an Environmentally Relevant Dose of Triclocarban Results in Perinatal Exposure and Potential Alterations in Offspring Development in the Mouse Model”) on TCC, which is an antibacterial found in personal care products like soaps and lotions as well as in the medical industry, is published in PLOS ONE.

    “…we investigated whether exposure to an environmentally relevant concentration of TCC could result in transfer from mother to offspring in CD-1 mice during gestation and lactation using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS),” write the investigators. “We demonstrated that TCC does effectively transfer from mother to offspring, both trans-placentally and via lactation. TCC-related compounds were detected in the tissues of offspring with significantly higher concentrations in the brain, heart and fat. In addition to transfer from mother to offspring, exposed offspring were heavier in weight than unexposed controls demonstrating an 11% and 8.5% increase in body weight for females and males, respectively.”

    This study represents the first report to quantify the transfer of an environmentally relevant concentration of TCC from mother to offspring, say the scientists. TCC is among the top 10 most commonly detected wastewater contaminants in concentration and frequency.

    "Our results are significant because of the potential risk of exposure to TCC through contaminated water sources and in the living environment, and the potential adverse effects resulting from this exposure during development," said LLNL biologist Heather Enright, Ph.D., the lead author of the paper. "Early life exposure to TCC has the potential to cause irreversible outcomes due to the fragile nature of organ systems and protective mechanisms in developing offspring."

    Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was used in the study to examine changes in gene expression in liver and adipose tissue in the exposed offspring. The results suggested alterations in genes involved in lipid metabolism in exposed female offspring were consistent with the observed increase in fat weights and hepatic triglycerides.

    “Our findings suggest that early-life exposure to TCC may interfere with lipid metabolism and could have implications for human health,” conclude the researchers.

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