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Disinfectants may promote growth of superbugs

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By Jimmy Downs

It is a known fact that overuse of antibiotics can increase bacterial resistance.  But a new study now shows that even use of disinfectants could boost odds for bacteria to become superbugs that are resistant to otherwise potent antibiotics.

The study published in the January 2010 issue of Microbiology shows that laboratory cultures of pseudomonas aeruginosa exposed to increasing amounts of a disinfectant could adapt to survive not only the disinfectant but also commonly used antibiotics called ciprofloxacin.

Dr. Gerard Fleming and colleagues from the National University of Ireland in Galway found bacteria exposed to disinfectants became superbugs that were more capable of pumping out antimicrobial agents including disinfectants and antibiotics from their cells.

Additionally, the researchers found the bacteria exposed to disinfectants also mutated to allow them to be resistant to antibiotics, particularly ciprofloxacin and others in the same category.

P. aeruginosa is a bacterium that causes infections in people, particularly in those with their immunity compromised and those with diseases such as cystic fibrosis and diabetes, according to a press release by the Society for General Microbiology. It is responsible for many cases of hospital-acquired infections.

The researchers suggest that hospitals need to consider the "side effects" of using disinfectants in medical facilities, particularly in the era when superbugs are found ubiquitously.

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