Faulty Disinfectant Use Could Lead to Antibiotic Resistance

The improper use of the disinfectant <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/diseases">benzalkonium chloride, could cause some germs to develop antibiotic resistance, Business Week just reported, citing emerging research published in the January issue of the journal Microbiology.

According to Business Week, the findings do not fault proper disinfectant use and have only been found in laboratory testing. “It is OK to use disinfectants. Just don’t misuse or overuse them,” said study co-author Gerard T.A. Fleming—a scientist at the National University of Ireland in Galway—quoted Business Week. The disinfectant is found in an array of products including skin cleansers and face creams, spermicides, and some disinfectant products, noted Business Week, citing Fleming.

As we have long written, overuse and misuse of antibiotics is believed to make germs stronger as the germs learn to fight the effects of the drugs. This study found that the germ, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, was able to develop a resistance to antibiotics, explained Business Week, adding that the germ can lead to sickness in those with weakened immune systems and is key in hospital-acquired infections.

The researchers added benzalkonium chloride to a solution with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, said Business Week; Pseudomonas aeruginosa mutated and developed a resistance to Cipro (generic: Ciprofloxacin) after exposure to benzalkonium chloride and also developed a resistance to the disinfectant. Cipro is often used to treat anthrax.

According to Fleming, disinfectants must be used correctly and people should “not be tempted to dilute them down so that they go further in an attempt to save money…. Disinfectants work at the concentration stated on the bottle, but if they are diluted to a level where microorganisms can evolve, resistance can build up,” quoted Business Week. “… disinfectants are our first line of defense against harmful germs. Antibiotics are our second line of defense in case of infection. Our study has shown that it is possible to corrupt the first and second line of defense. What then are we left with?” Fleming added.

Meanwhile, last week, another study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and which appears in the December 23 online and February print edition of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology—found that Acinetobacter—a very resistant bacteria—appears to be thriving in hospitals nationwide, according to Business Week. Looking at data (1999-2006) from 300 hospitals across the country, the researchers saw an excess of a 300-percent increase in cases of Acinetobacter resistant to Primaxin (generic: Imipenem).

Acinetobactor is generally found in patients being treated in the intensive care units of hospitals and often results in significant “pneumonias or bloodstream infections,” said Business Week, adding that the infections are not always cured with the most powerful of antibiotics.

Last month we wrote that a large study on the effects of antibiotics used during pregnancy and birth defects—the first of its kind to review the use of antibiotics during pregnancy—found a link between medications for urinary tract infections and birth defects. That study appeared in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, said the Associated Press.

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