Researchers at the University of California found that the widely used antimicrobial agent triclosan was passed to newborn mice through their mother’s milk and caused fatty liver disease. The study was published in the journal Nature Communication.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a dangerous condition that affects 100 million people in the United States, and its incidence is increasing each year. About 50% of obese people have NAFLD, which can lead to liver cirrhosis or cancer. Children with fatty liver disease are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes as adults. 9.6% of US children ages 2 to 19 have NAFLD.
An additional risk factor for developing fatty liver disease is exposure to triclosan. This broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent is used in many products from clothing to food packaging. In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of triclosan in some products and sought pre-market approval for others. But it is still added to soaps, toothpastes and toys.
Biologists at the University of California San Diego exposed pregnant mice to triclosan through food. They found that it was effectively passed on to newborn mice during breastfeeding. This led to the development of fatty liver, endoplasmic reticulum stress, inflammation, and liver fibrosis. Researchers have identified two key metabolic regulators responsible for triclosan-induced fatty liver disease.
The results of the study may explain the increase in fatty liver disease in children in recent years and may lead to a reconsideration of the safety of the widespread use of triclosan.