Skip to main content

Using Disinfectants may Promote Superbugs

  • Synopsis: Published: 2009-12-28 - Disinfectants could cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics as well as the disinfectant itself. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Society for General Microbiology.
  • Jump to:

Main Document

Using disinfectants could cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics as well as the disinfectant itself, according to research published in the January issue of Microbiology. The findings could have important implications for how the spread of infection is managed in hospital settings.

Researchers from the National University of Ireland in Galway found that by adding increasing amounts of disinfectant to laboratory cultures of Pseudomonas aeruginosa , the bacteria could adapt to survive not only the disinfectant but also ciprofloxacin - a commonly-prescribed antibiotic - even without being exposed to it. The researchers showed that the bacteria had adapted to more efficiently pump out antimicrobial agents (disinfectant and antibiotic) from the bacterial cell. The adapted bacteria also had a mutation in their DNA that allowed them to resist ciprofloxacin-type antibiotics specifically.

P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic bacterium that can cause a wide range of infections in people with weak immune systems and those with diseases such as cystic fibrosis (CF) and diabetes. P. aeruginosa is an important cause of hospital-acquired infections. Disinfectants are used to kill bacteria on surfaces to prevent their spread. If the bacteria manage to survive and go on to infect patients, antibiotics are used to treat them. Bacteria that can resist both these control points may be a serious threat to hospital patients.

Importantly, the study showed that when very small non-lethal amounts of disinfectant were added to the bacteria in culture, the adapted bacteria were more likely to survive compared to the non-adapted bacteria. Dr. Gerard Fleming, who led the study, said, "In principle this means that residue from incorrectly diluted disinfectants left on hospital surfaces could promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. What is more worrying is that bacteria seem to be able to adapt to resist antibiotics without even being exposed to them."

Dr. Fleming also stressed the importance of studying the environmental factors that might promote antibiotic resistance. "We need to investigate the effects of using more than one type of disinfectant on promoting antibiotic-resistant strains. This will increase the effectiveness of both our first and second lines of defense against hospital-acquired infections," he said.





Information from our Medical: Health & Disability Information section - (Full List).


     What will I receive?

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be. Also see information on blood group types and compatibility.


  1. Special Unit: Action Comedy Film Led By Cast of Actors with Disabilities
  2. Can Adults Develop ADHD?
  3. OHEL Diverse Programs for Children and Adults with Disabilities
  4. Fear of Hostility Prevents Many Disabled People From Going Out




Citation