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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2016 May 23;60(6):3323-32. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00166-16. Print 2016 Jun.

In Vitro Activity of Quaternary Ammonium Surfactants against Streptococcal, Chlamydial, and Gonococcal Infective Agents.

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CNC-Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal.
Department of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Health, Lisbon, Portugal.
Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica António Xavier, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Oeiras, Portugal.
CEDOC, NOVA Medical School, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal.
CEDOC, NOVA Medical School, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal


Quaternary ammonium compounds (QAC) are widely used, cheap, and chemically stable disinfectants and topical antiseptics with wide-spectrum antimicrobial activities. Within this group of compounds, we recently showed that there are significant differences between the pharmacodynamics of n-alkyl quaternary ammonium surfactants (QAS) with a short (C12) alkyl chain when in vitro toxicities toward bacterial and mammalian epithelial cells are compared. These differences result in an attractive therapeutic window that justifies studying short-chain QAS as prophylactics for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and perinatal vertically transmitted urogenital infections (UGI). We have evaluated the antimicrobial activities of short-chain (C12) n-alkyl QAS against several STI and UGI pathogens as well as against commensal Lactobacillus species. Inhibition of infection of HeLa cells by Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis was studied at concentrations that were not toxic to the HeLa cells. We show that the pathogenic bacteria are much more susceptible to QAS toxic effects than the commensal vaginal flora and that QAS significantly attenuate the infectivity of N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis without affecting the viability of epithelial cells of the vaginal mucosa. N-Dodecylpyridinium bromide (C12PB) was found to be the most effective QAS. Our results strongly suggest that short-chain (C12) n-alkyl pyridinium bromides and structurally similar compounds are promising microbicide candidates for topical application in the prophylaxis of STI and perinatal vertical transmission of UGI.

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