A research team from Australia’s Macquarie University tested how the popular disinfectant benzalkonium chloride combines with antibiotics and bacteria. Scientists were interested in common and fairly harmless bacteria that live in soil, water and the human intestine, but in patients with weakened immune systems, they can cause dangerous diseases, including pneumonia. In the study, they appear under the collective name ESKAPE, after the first letters of the Latin names for these microbes.
Benzalkonium chloride-based cleaning agents have proven to inhibit the action of aminoglycoside antibiotics that fight ESKAPE infections. In addition, if the concentration of the disinfectant is low, such as in wet wipes or eye drops, bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance. The authors of the study are calling for the elimination of benzalkonium chloride-based cleaning products in the home, leaving them only for hospitals.
Experts have long been sounding the alarm because of the antibiotic resistance of bacteria: for example, the World Health Organization reports that pathogens are almost 100% resistant to certain drugs. There are fears that drug resistance in bacteria could worsen due to inappropriate antibiotic use during the COVID-19 pandemic.