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Public Health (27-01-2009)

ADOPTION of the SCENIHR opinion concerning the antibiotic resistance effects of biocides

Biocides[1] are invaluable compounds that provide society with numerous benefits. However, the worldwide increase of antibiotic[2] resistance in bacterial pathogens and the accompanying treatment failures in human and animal infectious diseases are generating concerns. Therefore, in order to preserve the role of biocides in infection control and hygiene it is paramount to prevent the emergence of bacterial resistance and cross-resistance through their appropriate and prudent use.
As a result, the Commission asked the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) whether current scientific evidence indicates that the use of certain active substances in biocidal products[3] can contribute to the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
 After a public consultation on the effects of active substances in biocidal products on antibiotic resistance, the SCENHIR adopted its opinion on 19 January 2009. The SCENIHR concluded that current scientific evidence does indicate that the use of certain active substances in biocidal products may contribute to the increased occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, both in humans and in the environment.
Some mechanisms of bacterial resistance are common to both biocides and antibiotics. However, due to the current scarcity of information it is difficult to quantify the impact of biocides on the selection, survival and spread of multi-resistant bacterial strains. It is important to determine the capacity of biocides to trigger this process. In its opinion, the Committee advises on the methodologies that can be used to examine the development of antibiotic resistance due to the use of active substances in biocidal products.
The opinion is published on the web at:

[1]Biocide: an active chemical molecule in a biocidal product for controling the growth of or for killing bacteria.
[2]Antibiotic: an active substance of synthetic or natural origin which is used to eradicate bacterial infections in humans or animals.
[3]Biocidal product: active substance or preparation, intended to destroy, render harmless any harmful organism by chemical or biological means.