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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2004 Aug;54(2):386-92. Epub 2004 Jul 14.

Tolerance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil is associated with the outer membrane and energy-dependent cellular processes.

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Microbiology Discipline (M502), School of Biomedical and Chemical Sciences, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia 6009.



The essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil) and its components have antimicrobial activity against a wide range of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, fungi and viruses. The mechanism(s) by which Pseudomonas aeruginosa NCTC 10662 maintains a decreased susceptibility to tea tree oil and components was investigated.


Ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid enhanced the antimicrobial activity of tea tree oil and terpinen-4-ol against stationary phase P. aeruginosa while polymyxin B nonapeptide enhanced the activity of tea tree oil and gamma-terpinene. Pre-treatment with the protonophore carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone increased the susceptibility of exponential phase cells to sub-inhibitory concentrations of tea tree oil, terpinen-4-ol and gamma-terpinene, indicating that intrinsic tolerance to tea tree oil and components is substantially energy dependent.


Increased tolerance to tea tree oil in P. aeruginosa is directly related to the barrier and energy functions of the outer membrane, and may involve efflux systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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