Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


ROBODAR — Result In Brief

Project ID: 293665
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: Turkey

Microbes evolve to tolerate disinfectants

Researchers have discovered an enzyme that enables certain microbes to break down compounds found in common disinfectants, rendering them resistant to antimicrobials.
Microbes evolve to tolerate disinfectants
People use disinfectants because they are afraid of disease-causing microorganisms. But, our obsession with hygiene has backfired by 'teaching' microorganisms how to use disinfectants as a source of carbon and energy.

The EU-funded ROBODAR (Role of biotransformation on the dynamics of antimicrobial resistance) project investigated biotransformation – how microorganisms modify chemical compounds. The aim was to determine whether biotransformation can lead to the evolution and spread of antimicrobial resistance in the environment.

Researchers focused on the biotransformation of benzalkonium chlorides (BACs), which are found in many domestic, industrial and medical disinfectants. They looked at how resistance develops in a microorganism and a microbial community with different tolerances and capacities to biotransform BACs.

Five microbial communities that actively degrade BACs were collected from domestic wastewater, activated sludge, pristine soil, sea sediment and house floors. A Pseudomonas species (strain BIOMIG1) capable of tolerating and breaking down BACs was isolated.

Researchers identified a dioxygenase, which had not been reported previously, as the key enzyme responsible for the breakdown of BACs in BIOMIG1.

Scientists also isolated Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens species that cannot degrade BACs. These were used as model organisms in co-culture laboratory experiments to understand antimicrobial resistance in disinfected environments.

The overall findings of the project suggest that biotransformation reduces the efficacy of disinfectants and increases antimicrobial resistance. This information has important implications for human health and the use of antimicrobial compounds.

Related information


Disinfectants, enzyme, antimicrobials, ROBODAR, biotransformation, benzalkonium chlorides
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