Increased use of disinfectants could cause hospital superbugs to become resistant to antibiotics as well as the disinfectant itself, a new study has said.
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.
A research team 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 adapted bacteria had developed the ability to more efficiently pump out antimicrobial agents from the bacterial cell.
The bacteria was also found to have a mutation in their DNA that allowed them to resist ciprofloxacin-type antibiotics specifically.
"In principle this means that residue from incorrectly diluted disinfectants left on hospital surfaces could promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," said lead researcher Dr. Gerard Fleming.
"What is more worrying is that bacteria seem to be able to adapt to resist antibiotics without even being exposed to them.
"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 defence against hospital-acquired infections," Fleming added.
The research is published in the journal Microbiology.