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Surprising Science


New research suggests that disinfectants can train bacteria to resist antibiotics they have never been exposed to before.

“Scientists know bacteria can become inured to disinfectant, but research increasingly shows the same process may make them resistant to certain drugs. This can occur even with an antibiotic the bacteria have not been exposed to. Writing in Microbiology, the National University of Ireland team, who focused on a common hospital bacterium, urges a rethink of how infections are managed. Scientists in Galway found that by adding increasing amounts of disinfectant to cultures of pseudomonas aeruginosa in the lab, the bacteria learnt to resist not only the disinfectant but also ciprofloxacin – a commonly-prescribed antibiotic – even without being exposed to it. The researchers report the bacteria had adapted to pump out anti-microbial agents – be they a disinfectant or an antibiotic – from their cells. The adapted bacteria also had a mutation in their DNA that allowed them to resist ciprofloxacin-type antibiotics specifically.”


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