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Some bacteria thrive on disinfectants*

IHN logoBOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. Most people assume that disinfectants kill bacteria. A recent experiment carried out by a school student, Merri Moken, throws serious doubts on this assumption. Merri found that some bacteria such as Escherichia coli tolerated Pine-Sol, a popular household disinfectant based on pine oil. Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine confirmed her findings and isolated a mutant E. coli that actually thrived on a nutrient solution spiked with Pine-Sol. They also found that it took from two to eight times more antibiotics to kill the mutant bacteria than it did to kill the original strain. The researchers are still unsure as to the importance of these findings and plan further work to see if kitchens could serve as a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Other researchers are concerned about the effect of disinfectant use in hospitals. David Weber of the University of North Carolina says that he would be very concerned "if the antibiotic-resistant organisms we find in hospitals were resistant to disinfectants."
Boyce, Nell. Germ warfare: household cleaners help bugs dodge antibiotic weapons. New Scientist, December 20/27, 1997, p. 7

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