Assessing the Risk of Resistance to Cationic Biocides incorporating Realism-based and Biophysical Approaches

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The control of microorganisms is a key objective in disease prevention and in medical, industrial, domestic and food-production environments. Whilst the effectiveness of biocides in these contexts is well-evidenced, debate continues about the resistance risks associated with their use. This has driven an increased regulatory burden, which in turn could result in a reduction of both the deployment of current biocides and the development of new compounds and formulas. Efforts to balance risk and benefit are therefore of critical importance and should be underpinned by realistic methods and a multi-disciplinary approach, and through objective and critical analyses of the literature. The current literature on this topic can be difficult to navigate. Much of the evidence for potential issues of resistance generation by biocides is based on either correlation analysis of isolated bacteria, where reports of treatment failure are generally uncommon, or laboratory studies that do not necessarily represent real biocide applications. This is complicated by inconsistencies in the definition of the term resistance. Similar uncertainties also apply to co-resistance between biocides and antibiotics. Risk assessment studies that can better inform practice are required. The resulting knowledge can be utilised by multiple stakeholders including those tasked with new product development, regulatory authorities, clinical practitioners, and the public. This review considers current evidence for resistance and co-resistance and outlines efforts to increase realism in risk assessment. This is done in the background of the discussion of the mode of application of biocides and the demonstrable benefits as well as the potential risks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Sept 2021


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