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Thread: Does soap lyse cell walls?

  1. #1 Does soap lyse cell walls? 
    Forum Junior JoshuaL's Avatar
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    Hi all,
    People keep telling me that soap does not really kill bacteria, but merely detaches it from your skin to be rinsed away. Now I am reading that same thing all over the web. But I recall quite clearly from college biology a description of soap actually lysing the bacteria, the polar molecules tearing open the bacteria's cell wall. Trying to find journal articles on the topic now, but haven't found anything yet. Anyone care to chime in on the topic (and preferably have something to back up their claim)?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Professor Zwirko's Avatar
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    Plain household soap doesn't do much harm to bacteria. Bacteria have tough cell walls and often have other protective layers as well. Bacteria can live in soapy water and some in strong detergenet solutions. If the cell wall was removed, creating what's known as a spheroblast, the bacterium might not be so happy in the prescence of soap. How unhappy exactly, I can't comment on.


    Detergents are often used to lyse cells in the lab, but the procedure is more complex than just a quick dousing with soapy water.

    EDIT: note that the cell wall is not the same thing as the plasma membrane, which is what I think you are referring to.


    Last edited by Zwirko; September 15th, 2012 at 09:49 AM.
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    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    DNA Extraction from Bacteria

    This is a protocol that uses soap (shampoo) though it also uses a 55-60 degree celcius heating step to destroy the cell wall and the membrane.

    I hope it is helpfull and may answer your question..
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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    Forum Junior JoshuaL's Avatar
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    Thanks guys! Now that I think about it, I did the same thing with a strawberry as part of new-hire orientation at the Hutch, though no heat was required. Instead, we just mashed the strawberry to a pulp, then followed basically the same directions but using dish soap instead of shampoo. There was a LOT of genetic material (the strawberries were pentaploid (Fragaria bringhurstii)).
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