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Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2012 May;39(5):381-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2012.01.011. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

Emergence of resistance to antibacterial agents: the role of quaternary ammonium compounds--a critical review.

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Unité d'Hygiène Hospitalière, Pôle Microorganismes, CHU Pontchaillou, 2 avenue du Professeur Léon Bernard, 35043 Rennes, France.


Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are widely distributed in hospitals, industry and cosmetics. Little attention has been focused on the potential impact of QACs on the emergence of antibiotic resistance in patients and the environment. To assess this issue, we conducted a literature review on QAC chemical structure, fields of application, mechanism of action, susceptibility testing, prevalence, and co- or cross-resistance to antibiotics. Special attention was paid to the effects of QACs on microflora; in particular, the issue of the potential of QACs for applying selective pressure on multiple-antibiotic-resistant organisms was raised. It was found that there is a lack of standardised procedures for interpreting susceptibility test results. QACs have different impacts on the minimum inhibitory concentrations of antibacterials depending on the antibacterial compound investigated, the resistance genes involved, the measuring methodology and the interpretative criteria. The unmet needs for adequate detection of reduced susceptibility to QACs and antibiotics include (i) a consensus definition for resistance, (ii) epidemiological cut-off values and (iii) clinical resistance breakpoints. This review advocates the design of international guidelines for QAC use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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