Plain old soap works just as well

It may be virtually impossible to buy soap in the United States that is not "antibacterial," but such products are a waste of time, experts said.

Not only that, but their heavy use could contribute to a whole new breed of hard-to-kill superbugs, the researchers told a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"It makes you wonder why they call it antibacterial, because according to our research, it isn't any more so than plain soaps," Elaine Larson, associate dean for research at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York, said in a statement.

"We found antimicrobial or antibacterial soaps provide no added value over plain soap."

Soap and water works by literally washing away germs, although soap itself can kill bacteria and viruses.

Larson noted that several studies suggest that alcohol-based gels are better ways to kill germs instead of washing them away and may be a good alternative for health care workers whose hands are damaged by repeated washings.

Elephant signs petition

A baby elephant in Germany has signed a petition to protect wild elephants around the world, an environmental protection group said.

Sayang, who escaped elephant poachers in Borneo three years ago, signed the petition by holding a paintbrush dipped in paint with her trunk, said a spokesman for NABU, an environmental protection group based in Germany's former capital Bonn.

A zoo in Hanover had nominated Sayang as a signatory, after discovering her writing talent, he added.

"Sayang had been practising for days before signing the dotted line," a spokeswoman for the zoo said.

Sayang signed along with the president of NABU. The group plans to give the petition to a German delegation attending a conference in Chile next month on international trade in endangered species.

"NABU hopes this symbolic union of man and beast will raise awareness of unregulated ivory trade," the spokesman said.

Wildlife group lists species most threatened by trade

Body parts of tigers and rhinoceros horn are highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine. Big-leaf mahogany is prized in furniture manufacturing. According to the World Wildlife Fund, they're among the species most threatened by illegal or unsustainable trade worth billions a year. The advocacy group released its list in advance of next month's meeting of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The WWF's "most wanted":

Hawksbill sea turtle
Sumatran rhinoceros
Big-leaf mahogany
Patagonian toothfish (also known as Chilean sea bass)
Yellow-headed Amazon parrot
Seahorses (20 species)
Asian elephants
Whale sharks
Malayan giant turtle

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