The Foundation of Allergies: Are Antibacterials Bad?

By Alessandra Maahs, Biology and English, 2017

Among rows of lab benches and through the sound of clinking walks Dr. Jessica Savage, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Savage’s research focuses on the treatment and causes of allergies in children and adults. Her goal is to find a better diagnosis for allergies.

Dr. Savage’s goal is to find out if certain anti-bacterial chemicals alter the bacteria in an individual’s body, and her research has the potential to make a breakthrough in allergy research.

She has found that the chemicals parabens and triclosans, which people are exposed to in products like shampoos and toothpastes, are linked to higher degrees of allergies.

“I’m looking at children from around birth to a few years old, (and) researching the effects of these chemicals found in shampoo and toothpastes on the human microbiome,” Savage said.
She has discovered an important correlation: kids with high levels of these chemicals are more likely to test positive on an allergy test. Anti-bacterial chemicals are omnipresent in our daily lives, from toothpaste to shampoo to everyday cleaning products. These anti-bacterial chemicals cause bacteria levels to change in the human body.

Savage hypothesizes that this change in bacteria could potentially stimulate the presence of more bad bacteria and result in changes in the gut, ultimately leading to more allergies. These products are without doubt affecting our immune systems, which is why it is so crucial that Savage and her team of researchers are rigorously working to discover answers.