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Disinfectant Misuse Might Help Germs Resist Antibiotics
Date:12/29/2009

But it's unclear if this would happen outside the lab, expert says

TUESDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The incorrect use of a disinfectant could cause some germs to develop resistance to antibiotics, new research suggests.

However, the findings haven't been proven outside of the laboratory and they don't suggest that there's anything wrong with disinfectants that are used properly. "It is OK to use disinfectants. Just don't misuse or overuse them," said study co-author Gerard T.A. Fleming.

It's well-known that the widespread use of antibiotics is thought to be making germs stronger because some bacteria learn how to bypass the drugs. In the new study, researchers sought to find out if a disinfectant could have a similar effect on a germ called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause disease in people with compromised immune systems and is a significant cause of hospital-acquired infections.

The disinfectant, known as benzalkonium chloride, is used in a variety of skin cleansers and disinfectant products along with face creams and spermicides, said Fleming, a scientist at the National University of Ireland in Galway. "It is seen as a good disinfectant in that it generally does not harm if it comes into contact with skin," he explained.

In the laboratory, researchers added low levels of the disinfectant to a solution that included the bacteria. The findings are published in the January issue of the journal Microbiology.

The researchers found that the bacteria mutated and became resistant to the powerful antibiotic known as ciprofloxacin (Cipro) after being exposed to the disinfectant. Cipro is best known as a drug used to treat people exposed to anthrax.

The bacteria also became resistant to the disinfectant.

There is a caveat to the research: It took place in the laboratory, not in a home or a hospital, where the germ in question is most likely to cause problems
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