Triclosan: a widely used biocide and its link to antibiotics


  • Herbert P Schweizer

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Microbiology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1677, USA
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Triclosan is the active ingredient in a multitude of health care and consumer products with germicidal properties, which have flooded the market in recent years in response to the public's fear of communicable bacteria. Although originally thought to kill bacteria by attacking multiple cellular targets, triclosan was recently shown to target a specific bacterial fatty acid biosynthetic enzyme, enoyl-[acyl-carrier protein] reductase, in Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, as well as in the Mycobacteria. Triclosan resistance mechanisms include target mutations, increased target expression, active efflux from the cell, and enzymatic inactivation/degradation. These are the same types of mechanisms involved in antibiotic resistance and some of them account for the observed cross-resistance with antibiotics in laboratory isolates. Therefore, there is a link between triclosan and antibiotics, and the widespread use of triclosan-containing antiseptics and disinfectants may indeed aid in development of microbial resistance, in particular cross-resistance to antibiotics.